The federal government will be contributing $53.5 million dollars to the construction of 16 passing lanes on Highways 6 and 39, between Regina and Estevan, as part of funding made available by the National Trade Corridors Fund. The announcement was made Thursday morning at a press conference in Weyburn.
Federal Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, was on hand for the announcement, appearing on behalf of the federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau.
“The government of Canada has made the strategic economic decision our focus is going to be on investment to drive growth,” Goodale said after the announcement. “One of the key components of that is investment in infrastructure and we’ve undertaken an investment plan that will see $180 billion invested in infrastructure projects of all kinds across the country over the next decade or so, particularly the kind of infrastructure that supports economic activity and growth.”
In addition to the 16 passing lanes which will be constructed, there will be additional work done on a number of the intersections with the roadways in the area in an effort to improve safety. Some sections of the highways will be twinned, specifically directly south of Regina, the stretch along Highway 39 between Milestone and Corinne, and southeast of Weyburn along Highway 39.
For a number of years, the plan of the provincial government was originally to twin the highways, but due to a number of factors, the decision was made to go with passing lanes. Provincial Highways Minister David Marit was on hand for the announcement.
In addition to financial costs, as well as the timing of the work, input from North Dakota was also a factor. The U.S. state indicated their infrastructure may not be capable of handling the increase in traffic due to a twinned highway.
“When we went down and said we were looking at the passing lane strategy and we were going to have some serious consideration around it, they embraced that,” Marit explained. “In fact, my understanding is right now the Department of Transport for North Dakota is probably going to do the same thing.”
The work has already begun along the corridor for the passing lanes. It is expected to continue over the next number of years and should be finished by 2023.
Marit commented on the safety aspect of the changes, pointing out the amount of traffic which comes into the region along Highway 39 from the United States alone is approximately 500 trucks a day, or roughly one every three minutes.
Economically, he said the project will help as well, as there will be a number of jobs generated for the construction. The increase in the traffic along the corridor will also be a boost for a number of the communities between the U.S. border and Regina, including Weyburn, Estevan, and the smaller communities in between.