Despite the strong opposition of one local couple, the province has officially opened a new segment of highway just west of the city.
Another portion of the estimated $14 million Yorkton West Truck Route Project officially opened to traffic last Thursday – now known as Highway 52A – and will make travel easier for motorists and shippers.
“It’s good to see truck traffic now able to use this route, which supports local canola crushing facilities, the agricultural sector, the province’s export-based economy and the Saskatchewan Advantage,” said Yorkton MLA Greg Ottenbreit onsite Thursday for a sign unveiling event. “With both phases now open, it’ll help relieve truck traffic around Yorkton, reduce traffic congestion and improve safety.”
The $5.4 million Highway 52A project – also known as Phase 2 of the Yorkton West Truck Route Project – saw a six kilometre long bypass built to connect Highway 16 and Grain Millers Drive to Highway 52. Turning lanes were also built. Construction of Phase 2 began in October 2010. Final cleanup work in the ditches is expected to be finished during the 2012 construction season, depending on weather.
Truckers and both canola crushing plant operators are pleased with the completion and the new opening.
“LDM Foods wishes to congratulate the provincial government on the opening of this highway project, as it will be of great benefit to our employees, our company and the local community,” Canadian Oil Seeds, LDM Foods Vice President Brian Conn comments. “We also want to acknowledge our ongoing good working relationship with the local levels of government that contributes to our success.”
“One of the key factors in building a world-class canola crushing facility here in Yorkton was having good access to main highways, which allows for safe, efficient transportation of people and goods to and from the facility,” Richardson Assistant Vice-President – Operations Darrell Sobkow adds. “The opening of Highway 52A certainly enhances that access and we appreciate the provincial government’s investment in transportation infrastructure.”
Not happy with the recent announcement are Boyd and Rhonda Bailey, a local couple who reside on the north side of Highway # 52 west just beside the new truck route.
“We moved out the country for the quiet of the country,” says Rhonda adding not only has that been lost but with the increase in traffic and higher speeds, safety is an issue.
“When the government started this project they proposed seven routes. They asked for input...” The highway that was constructed she says, was a second proposal and not the best choice.
“Highway speed is still 100 kilometres per hour (from Yorkton) up to this route. This causes all sorts of trouble...
Collision potential, a lack of signage and/or lights and the excessive use of “jake” breaks are all concerns she says.
“We’ve gone to great lengths at our own personal cost to fence the entire two acres that our acreage is on to protect our family and pets as well as we hope that when one of these vehicles does lose control at these high speeds, this will hopefully keep them from killing someone on our property.
“We’ve also incurred great costs to our personal selves in order to reduce the amount of noise... we have personally planted close to 800 trees to try to create a shelter belt and noise barrier...”
While Bailey acknowledges the need for progress and highway improvements, she is not happy about this particular situation and she is pushing at the very least, for the province to add additional signage as well as to reduce the speed limit from 100 kilometers to 50.
Ottenbreit says concerns can never be discounted and that the province will be looking further into the situation but he’s not certain that a 50 kilometre speed limit is the answer or that there is in fact any real problem.
“It will increase traffic in the area. There has been a study conducted on the traffic flow and the impact on the area... any time you have a significant infrastructure project and an increase in the economy with the canola plants in the area, there will be people with concerns because the environment around them has been altered...,” he says.
“But what we’re committing to is to have a look at this and we will try to address the concerns.”
The $8.6 million Phase 1 portion of the project opened in the fall of 2010, after construction began in 2009. Construction work included: moving a 5.3 km long segment of Highway 16 about 400 metres south; re-aligning Highway 16’s access to Grain Millers Drive; and re-aligning a portion of Grain Millers Drive.