Driving in the southeast will soon get a bit safer with the announcement of additional funds for highway upgrades in yesterday's provincial budget.
"We're looking at really getting into the planning on passing lanes and some twinning from Estevan to Regina on Highways 6 and 39," shared David Marit, Minister of Highways and Infrastructure. "Construction will go ahead this year on passing lanes from Regina south to the junction of 39 Highway at Corinne."
"And then in that, we're looking at some twinning probably in that Corinne area to get through the railroad tracks and to the junction of Highway 6 or maybe a little farther. And then we're really going to get into the details and the design of passing lanes between there and Estevan. I think the total number we're looking at is in the neighbourhood of 18 sets which would probably encompass if you put it all together, 36 kilometers of passing lanes each way."
"We're excited about getting into the detailed plan of putting the passing lanes in between Estevan and the City of Regina."
"We can't do it all at once but we're getting going on it."
He added that he realizes that some people will be disappointed that the stretch of road will not be completely twinned but he outlined why that just wasn't feasible.
"Probably the biggest reason I want to do this is honestly, is safety. If we were to twin that highway, we're looking at roughly in the neighbourhood of 200 km of highway that would have to be twinned. What do you do around the City of Weyburn? We've had discussions with the planning commission there and the City of Weyburn, the RM and they are concerned because they have commercial growth happening in Weyburn and a bypass would have cost us probably anywhere from $30-$50 million. They weren't really enthused about that and frankly neither was I."
"We can do these passing lanes if we get that in place, they can be done as quickly as two years."
As well, our neighbours to the south are pleased to know that passing lanes will soon be a reality.
"We had discussions with our colleagues from North Dakota. They were very concerned with us twinning this highway for a number of reasons. It would put a lot of impact on their infrastructure which they have no intentions or were capable of handling. When we said we were going to go to passing lanes, I think now they are looking very seriously at doing the same thing on Highway 52 from the border down to Minot."
"That just improves the traffic flow right through."
"Sure there was concern from the citizens and I understand it, safety is very important, it's a priority of this government and this ministry. And the way we can get there real soon is passing lanes. That doesn't mean that we've ruled (twinning) out.The traffic continues to grow, our economy continues to grow. Maybe we'll find a way to integrate the passing lanes into the process. It doesn't mean that it's ruled out, it just means I'm going to improve that highway as quickly as I can and passing lanes are the way to do it."
"I think this shows this government's commitment to highway infrastructure in the province. This takes us over $3 billion in the last three years on highway infrastructure here in the province of Saskatchewan. We're finding new ways to work with municipalities in doing highway treatment and moving traffic, moving the truck traffic."
"I'm very pleased with the highways budget that we still saw significant dollars put into capital and maintenance on our highways system. In light of everything else, with resource revenue down, no increase in taxes and increase in healthcare, social services, and education, those are priorities for this government. But to still see almost a billion dollars in highway infrastructure, to me is pretty amazing and I'm in awe that I have a budget like that."