Although it’s not expected that rubber will meet the road until 2015, work on the heavy truck bypass around Estevan is ongoing.
The provincial government announced in March that $10 million had been placed in this year’s budget to begin preliminary work on the long-awaited bypass. Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure spokesman Doug Wakabayashi said all involved with the bypass are happy to see things begin in earnest.
“There is a significant demand for it in the Estevan area and something that will have a positive development on traffic, particularly through the downtown,” he said. “I think a lot of the stakeholders in the area are certainly anxious to get going.”
Getting to this stage on the bypass has been a long, drawn out process. The idea of a truck route was initially broached three to four years ago and many had hoped it would be nearing completion by now.
However, configuring the bypass proved to be a much tougher job than expected. The sticking point was how to connect the bypass with Highway 39 west of Estevan. The first design called for an intersection near the turn to Rafferty Dam and the Pioneer Grain Terminal. That idea was panned almost immediately as critics felt there were a number of potential safety concerns due to its proximity to the grain terminal. It was also noted that any future expansion at the terminal would be hindered by the intersection.
That prompted a lengthy delay as those involved with the bypass went back to the drawing board and came back with a plan that called for the bypass to be move further northwest of the terminal. Although that plan didn’t satisfy calls for an overpass at the intersection, it was seen as the next best option and the project moved forward.
Wakabayashi said the focus of the ministry in 2012 will be pre-construction work which includes purchasing land and all necessary utility moves. They will also be tendering the grading work over the summer.
“Whenever you do a major project like this there are certain things that have to happen before actual construction starts and land purchase is one of the big ones,” Wakabayashi said. “Well over 90 per cent of our transactions are concluded on a willing-buyer, willing-seller basis. Certainly as the province grows and land values change we have had some more challenging transactions in recent years but for the most part we are able to conclude these on a willing-buyer, willing-seller basis.”
Wakabayashi said the bulk of the actual road construction will begin in 2013 and it’s anticipated that it will be open to vehicles by 2015.
“Essentially we are forecasting three construction seasons to complete the work and of course that depends on the weather and contractor progress.”