Monday November 24, 2014

Arguments favour action


Yes, here we go again.

You've heard it before and you'll probably hear similar refrains in the future, until something positive happens because we've certainly experienced enough of the negatives.

The subject, of course, is the twinning of Highways 39 and 6 south of Regina.

Another fatality, two others seriously injured. The toll is mounting.

Of course this one stretch of highway is not the only one in the province to witness tragedies over the past few months, so we weigh our words with knowledge that the pressure is on the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure to take some action in other sectors as well.

Safety is just one key though when it comes to attempting to ply the highways in southeast Saskatchewan.

The volume of traffic is growing every month. One element of evidence is the vehicle traffic count emanating from our nearby international border points. Now that the highways are open again following floods of last spring and summer, the upward trend in trucking on Highways 39 and 47 are well noted.

Recent observations on the flow of this traffic reveals some startling driving practices. Trucks bearing oversize loads (of which there are many) are regularly clocked at speeds in excess of 120 km/h passing other semis and regular pickups with near reckless abandon.

These drivers and their rigs will no doubt be reined in somewhat once the RCMP highway traffic team arrives this spring to put a crimp in their NASCAR-like moves. Hopefully they will remind them that when it comes to semi truck versus pickup truck collisions, the semi-driver usually lives while the others are sometimes not so lucky. The RCMP have acknowledged the increased need of service. We were hoping the Highways Ministry had also, but we're not sure yet.

There has to be a cost benefit analysis as well.

Reducing accidents, deaths and injuries reduces corresponding insurance claims, medical costs and reduces the cost of goods being transported.

How much more is it costing the province to have 10 more RCMP officers assigned to southeast Saskatchewan just to handle highway traffic incidents? 

Since 80 per cent of Highway 39 is now in a sorry state of disrepair, the highways folks should have their calculators and computers working frantically, preparing an efficiency-based model, comparing costs of rebuilding the existing two-lane versus the life expectancy of a four-lane road and the ensuing increase in traffic and the probability of making this route an attractive international trade corridor rather than a highway that carriers are learning to dislike.

The stress factors need to be weighed, both for the truckers and the irregular travellers on this highway. The barriers to using it need to be reduced. Stress is an economic and health factor that is often ignored but shouldn't be.

Finally, Highways 39 and 6 need to be made larger because that is what the market is expecting and that need is building exponentially. We expect this growing market that links the United States, Estevan, Weyburn, and Regina will soon cease requesting and start demanding.

Eventually the Highways Ministry will have to listen and read the glaring signs that radiate with each costly delay or incident. We hope they begin to see these lights before the big dogs of the commercial, political and health and safety communities are unleashed.

In the meantime, we mourn the passing of another motorist who was simply trying to drive home after work, using one of Saskatchewan's deadliest roads. 



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