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Twinning of Highway 39 not in five year plan

But don't be alarmed, it's a flexible program says Highways minister

Nothing has changed regarding the potential for twinning Highways 39 and 6 south between Estevan and Regina even though they are not on the five-year highway construction plan that was released by the Highways and Infrastructure Ministry last week.

"Don't read into that plan that nothing will happen there," said the Jim Reiter, minister for that department. He was speaking with The Mercury on Monday afternoon and providing assurances that the possibility still exists for the twinning of Highways 39 and 6 as well as Highways 16 and 7.

Although none of these travel conduits meet the accepted federal traffic volume standards to be considered for twinning, Reiter said other issues such as safety also factor into the decision-making.

He said the five-year plan that was issued last week includes projects that the ministry is pretty certain will proceed, such as the Regina area transportation hub and the completion of the twinning of Highway 11 from Saskatoon to Prince Albert. That project has been accelerated to the point that it is now to be completed in 2012. Once the completion date for that twinning project looms with more certainty, then "we'll be turning our attention to highways such as 39, 6, 7 and 16."

Reiter said the current government will exceed their promised $1.8 billion in highway construction projects in the third year of their four-year mandate.

"Our current highways capital budget of $250 million is going to continue that momentum," he said.

As far as Highway 39 upgrades are concerned, it was noted in the five-year plan that a section between Weyburn to an area northwest of McTaggert will be repaved.

Reiter said his ministry officials are also working hard at reaching a solution in selecting "a logical site for the proposed Estevan area truck bypass."

An original plan to bring heavy haul trucks coming from the south out to a re-entry spot on Highway 39 west near a local grain elevator and an already existing heavily used road, is now being re-visited.

Reiter said the highways and infrastructure people are also looking at the feasibility of perhaps designing passing lanes along Highway 39 to alleviate some of the safety concerns that exist along this stretch of highway that leads into Regina.

"That might be a short-term solution, but they're looking at whether or not that would be a good idea economically as well as from a safety perspective," he said.

"But that still doesn't preclude twinning."

A rough patch of Highway 39 between Estevan and Macoun is not slated for repaving in the near term, but Highway 18 east of Oxbow to the eastern junction of Highway 9 is slated for new asphalt as is a stretch from the No. 9 junction to a point just east of Frobisher. There will also be a repaving of Highway 18 five kilometres east of Frobisher to junction 39, three kilometres west of Bienfait and another stretch along Highway 47 to the Boundary Dam access road.

Some additional work will also be done on Highway 361 east of Lampman to the Highway 9 junction. Two bridge replacements will also be carried out on the access road to Roche Percee.

"The province desperately needs this kind of investment in the highways. The work was neglected for so long, nothing was done for years. We can't fix it all overnight," said Reiter.

"We are hopeful that resource revenues will bounce back so we can continued to invest in more infrastructure and highways will remain a priority," he said in conclusion.