As you can imagine, I get excited for the release of the spring tender schedule each year, but when I saw what was contained in the schedule this spring, my enthusiasm cratered.
But as tough as I am finding it to believe there are basically no new projects, I can’t imagine the devastation being felt by those living in the Langenburg/Spy Hill/Rocanville/Moosomin area. There are people in that area who are still grieving nearly a year after a tragic rollover on Highway 8 while they fear for their own safety travelling on it today.
Two young women, who were a couple of weeks away from graduating from McNaughton High School in Moosomin and were ready to take on the world, were travelling south of Langenburg together on Highway 8 in early May of last year.
After their vehicle left the highway, RCMP were called around 4 p.m. that Thursday to respond.
The officers should not have found what they did that day. Both young women were still in the vehicle. One was taken to hospital with injuries. The other did not survive the crash. She drowned after the vehicle rolled and landed upside down in just inches of water after it left the road.
In the days following, counsellors were available to students and staff at McNaughton High School. Borderland Co-op in Moosomin, where both young women worked, also provided support for their staff with the food store closing early the day after the crash so employees could grieve.
The incident was investigated by an RCMP Collision Reconstruction Analyst. People in the area, however, thought about the condition of the highway where this occurred and continued their conversations about their own experiences on it as they grieved their loss.
Drivers in that area call Highway 8 treacherous, which is absolutely not an exaggeration after some lost wheels driving it due to the highway’s condition. The pavement is broken up and there is heaving and potholes along it. The narrow road has no shoulders or turning lanes.
Those turning left off Highway 8 to get to Carlton Lake Regional Park or access one of the secondary grid roads often must come to a full stop on the highway. When farmers or truckers use Highway 8, it becomes impassable for other drivers. But to get to Langenburg, that is the highway you must take – to buy groceries, to make it to medical appointments, to go to school and to get to work among many more necessary daily activities people living there must do.
Then, there is the economic activity that depends on this pitiful highway. It is a stretch that serves three potash mines (Mosaic K2 and K3 plus Nutrien), two large company farms (Norenda Farms and Hruska Farms), a farm machinery business (Bridgeview Manufacturing) and a canola crushing plant and refinery (Bunge Harrowby across the provincial border in Russell, Man.).
Think of all the heavy haul trucks and equipment that would travel this highway to serve these businesses! They rely on that highway, in part, because a section of it links the TransCanada to Highway 16.
Action was needed to ensure something was done to make this highway safe and people living and working in the area stepped up to make this known. People who drive that highway to get to work daily have pressed numerous employees in the Ministry of Highways to improve the safety of Highway 8 south of Langenburg.
They talked to their MLA, Warren Kaeding, who assured them in November that Highway 8 would be fixed during the 2022 construction season. Yet, where is the project in the spring tender schedule released in late March?
Highway 8 was built in 1965 for primary weight at that time and has not seen a significant upgrade since then. People in the Langenburg/Spy Hill/Rocanville/Moosomin area have contacted Premier Scott Moe, Highways Minister Fred Bradshaw and their MLA, Warren Kaeding, to have it explained to them why they have been ignored in this spring tender.
I want to elevate their concerns by sharing them with you to press the provincial government as well. This is a prime example of why it is unacceptable for the Saskatchewan government to keep repeating what it has spent on highways in recent years. People in Saskatchewan are not willing to accept there are limits on what the government can do given the number of kilometers of highway there are in the province to maintain.
There is still so much to be done to ensure that people travelling through Saskatchewan are safe as they work to grow this province’s economic output and transport what we produce to the world. Their children should have safe highways to travel on to get to school and their activities. This is not the time for the government to rest on its laurels as families worry and those in businesses stress about travel close to home.