Highway #32 campaign results in a smooth ride
Highway #32 used to conjure images of potholes and broken pavement, but a two-year construction project has smoothed over its reputation as the worst highway in the Southwest.
A ribbon cutting was held on Friday to ceremonially re-open the 56 kilometers of highway improvements that were completed between Shackleton and Prelate over the past two years.
Highway 32 was the focus of a high profile campaign to improve the dangerously battered road, with I Survived Sask Highway #32 bumper stickers adorning a number of vehicles, and a 2007 Highway #32 Pothole Calendar bringing a cheeky focus to the serious condition of the roadway.
Wayne Elhard, MLA for Cypress Hills, was among the most vocal individuals when it came to raising awareness of the poor state of the roadway.
“This has been one of my priorities from day one – I know the highway was in desperate need of work even before I was elected,” Elhard said following Friday’s ribbon cutting ceremony.
“It was an incredibly bad road,” he said. “If you compare the look of the road previous to what it is now, you’d wonder if you’re in the same country, let alone on the same road. The road was badly grooved. It was broken up, pieces of pavement were coming out. There were large failures along the edges of the road. It was a real nuisance and a danger to drive.”
Highway #32 was a thin membrane surface road which has now been upgraded to a primary weight highway. As a separate project, a repaving project from the Junction of Highway #1 to southeast of Cabri was completed in 2009. The total cost of Shackleton to Prelate project was $31.8 million, and the overall highway project was completed for $44.4 million. The federal government provided $11 million towards these projects through their Infrastructure Stimulus Fund.
“The repair job here has made all the difference for the residents of the communities along Highway 32,” he said.
The campaign to address the poor state of the highway began while Elhard was an opposition MLA and SaskParty Highways Critic, and he turned his focus to the Highway when he was named as the Minister of Highways and Infrastructure shortly after the SaskParty was elected in 2007.
Work began in May 2009 after environmental concerns caused a one-year delay to the construction project, as the Ministry of Environment was unable to approve the use of established gravel and sand sources near the highway because the materials were located in area with Native Prairie Habitat.
Elhard said the largest impact of the highway project will occur in Leader, and he noted one of the people attending Friday’s ceremony commented that they now feel part of the province again.
“People in the community of Leader felt totally isolated from the biggest part of the province because of the limited access. I think that speaks pretty convincingly about the importance of a road like this, for clearly economic reasons and safety reasons, but for social reasons – people want to feel like they’re part of the province, that they belong and they have access. This road gives them that right and opportunity now.” Admittedly, there was some personal satisfaction for seeing the project completed.
“This is the second best day of my political life out here,” he laughed. “The first one was when we announced the project, and today now that we’ve been here to celebrate the completion of it.”
Current Highways and Infrastructure Minister Jim Reiter was pleased to be involved in Friday’s ribbon cutting and noted it was a happy day after a long struggle.
“It goes back a number of years, this highway was in just deplorable condition,” Reiter said. “They’re just happy and relieved I think to finally have a good highway.” Important route. “This is the access for people from the communities along this highway to Swift Current, for the hospital. It’s huge for economic development. It’s huge for social reasons.”
“Our government has a growth agenda for economic development. If you’re going to be able to initiate that growth people need infrastructure, they need highways, that’s an important part of it,” Reiter said. “Our government’s made highway construction a priority. We’ve done a lot of projects already, and we’ve got a lot more to do. We’ve inherited a massive infrastructure deficit and I think highways might be the most noticeable part of that so we’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but we’re getting at it.”
A ribbon cutting ceremony was hosted on Highway #32 in Lancer on Friday to celebrate the ceremonial re-opening of the highway. Participating in the ribbon cutting were (L to R): Doug Steele (Southwest Transportation Planning Committee member), Jim...