Highway twinning plan affects southern neighbours

The Central North American Trade Corridor strategies returned to the news pages last week with spokesman Steve Pedersen discussing various issues arising as a result of Saskatchewan’s plan to twin Highways 39 and 6 (south of Regina).

Pedersen, who is an advocate for the corridor that links northern Mexico to Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba through the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South and North Dakota, noted the main highway link into Canada for the corridor users, is No. 39. Pedersen was speaking with the Mercury, following a meeting with local Time to Twin supporters.

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To avoid the inevitable bottlenecks on the North Dakota side with the expected increase in commercial and tourist traffic, Pedersen suggested that Minot representatives should be at the table for the future planning sessions that include twinning supporters from Estevan, Weyburn and Regina.

“We should have some Minot representation there,” he told the Mercury. In return, Saskatchewan probably needed to send representatives to the trade corridor planning sessions, he suggested.

A follow-up conversation with David Blair of KLJ Group, a major engineering and planning services company in the United States with offices in Williston, Devils Lake and Bismarck, led to further information regarding the prospects of turning Highway 52 in North Dakota into a four-lane expressway to match the plans unfolding in Saskatchewan, or at least building it up to Super 2 standards. Super 2 status refers to a highway with extended shoulders and well-placed passing lanes.

“The cost of building a Super 2 highway here comes with a cost of about $2.5 million per mile, a four-lane structure cost is $5 million a mile,” said Blair, speaking in generalities.

He also provided traffic flow figures which indicated that at peak periods, 1,570 vehicles pass through the Portal, N.D. border crossing into Canada per day with another 1,435 entering at two other nearby highway crossings.

In a following e-mail, Blair noted that a bill has been presented to the Legislative Assembly in North Dakota, introduced by representatives Froseth, Anderson and Louser and state senator Burckhard to provide for a four-lane structural build for Highway 52.

The bill calls for “a multilane highway to be planned following the development of the necessary environmental process for the next major reconstruction project for United States Highway 52 from the junction of U.S. Highways 2 and 52 to Portal. It is recommended the four-lane alternative be selected as the preferred alternate and be constructed if environmental clearance is obtained.”

Blair said he was unable to discover if the bill was passed.

In the earlier article, Pedersen noted trade corridor discussions not only focus on highway flow but also airline and rail modes of transportation and other infrastructure items that are needing to be addressed to improve the flow and efficiencies of commerce among the three countries.

A trade corridor summit is planned for May 18-20 in Bismarck to address the trade and tourism issues. Pedersen said he hopes Saskatchewan will have some strong representation there. 

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