High­way #32 cam­paign re­sults in a smooth ride

The Southwest Booster - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT AN­DER­SON

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.”

Photo Sub­mit­ted

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...

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