The City of Estevan had the chance to express some concerns and get some clarity regarding the heavy truck bypass around Estevan last week.
City officials and members of the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure held a conference regarding the bypass which is scheduled to start this year although issues regarding the purchase of land are threatening to delay work.
Mayor Gary St. Onge said along with getting an update on the timeline of the project, the City also had the chance to speak with the province about a couple of concerns they have. St. Onge said one worry the City has is the future of Highway 39 as it passes through Estevan. He noted that Fourth Street is considered a highway and as such the province pays for the costs of repaving the road.
However, St. Onge said the City is worried that if the bypass becomes the principal route around Estevan, they might be on the hook for the costs of repaving in the future.
“We thought originally that this was going to be just a truck route and a dangerous goods route, but they are talking that they are looking at this more as a complete bypass and that down the road everyone would go around,” St. Onge said. “(The route) would be Highway 39 and if you wanted to go through the city, you would actually be going on 39A.”
St. Onge said if something along those lines were to take place, it could have financial consequences for the City.
“Using Highway 47 for example, (the province) looks at all the highways that go through cities and they determine what percentage of that is a highway and what percentage of that is a street. So for 47, the north section coming up to Fourth Street, 57 per cent is a highway, the bottom part is 53. So when we rehabilitate, which we were planning to do they would pay 57 and we would pay 43.
“Now Fourth Street they had said was a full highway, 100 per cent theirs, so they would pay the full cost. So obviously if that is not the highway, we are going to have to pay a bigger share when it goes to rehabilitate it.”
St. Onge acknowledged that if more people are going around Estevan, there would be much less traffic on Fourth Street and consequently much less wear and tear.
“I suppose I don’t know if you can have your cake and eat it too.”
St. Onge said the purpose of raising the issue at the meeting was to get some assurances that Highway 39 will not be completely offloaded on the City and the two sides will need to have future discussions to iron out the matter.
The City’s other concern somewhat ties into the possibility of Highway 39 becoming a complete bypass around Estevan. St. Onge said the City was anticipating that there would be entrances onto the truck route from Kensington Avenue north and Sister Roddy Road. However the province informed them the current plan only calls for four points of entry because they do not want to interrupt traffic flow along the route.
As for the timeline, St. Onge said they were informed that the land purchase is still ongoing. In an article earlier this month, he suggested that if the process continued to drag out, the province should consider expropriating the land. During the meeting he learned there are a number of steps that will have to take place before any expropriation could begin.