Road rage of a different kind

There are certain things in my job that get me excited.

Championships for local sports teams, awards ceremonies, historical announcements, big community events and city council meetings get my blood pumping.

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Numbers? I love numbers. The covered population report from eHealth Saskatchewan, the City of Estevan’s audited financial statements and the highway traffic volume map are must reads for me.

(Yes, I am that big of a nerd).

One of the stories that I look forward to each year is the CAA Saskatchewan Worst Road contest. It’s an opportunity for people to vent about the shabby, crumbling, pothole-riddled roads that they have to endure on a regular basis.

There is no shortage of bad highways in Saskatchewan. It’s a reality of having so many kilometres of highways to maintain in a province of less than 1.2 million people. It costs a lot of money to resurface 15 kilometres of roads.

And many of the broken highways in Saskatchewan have relatively low traffic volumes.

You might not like the condition of the highway you drive regularly, but it’s tough for the government to justify resurfacing that road if there are 150 vehicles per day.

The Worst Roads Contest allows you to nominate that beat up highway, and see how many votes it can get.

Last year we actually had a couple of southeast highways on the list: Highway 18 in the Torquay area, and Highway 350 from Torquay to the U.S. border. The Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure took care of the Highway 18 issue, resurfacing it from Outram to Torquay, and it’s slated to work on the stretch from Torquay to Oungre this year.

As for Highway 350, it’s one of those that’s in terrible shape, but doesn’t have enough traffic to warrant a large expense.

Part of the fun of the contest is looking at the highways that finish ahead of the one you nominated, and wondering “how can that highway be any worse?”

We also saw urban roads included in the contest last year, which meant people could vote for a road in their city or town.

(As someone who has driven Sidney Street in Maple Creek on many occasions, I still don’t think it should have been in the top 10 last year).

Most of the high-volume highways in the southeast are in pretty good shape. They have to be. Highway 39 is a national highway. Highways 18, 47 and 13 have their highest volumes of traffic in the southeast. And these highways have lots of heavy vehicles, thanks to the industries we boast in the southeast.

It’s the secondary highways that are troublesome. There’s the afore-mentioned Highway 350 from Torquay to the U.S. border that serves as an ugly first impression for people from the U.S. coming into Canada.

Highways 361 and 318 in the Alida area have often been in bad shape.

Highway 18 west of Oungre has been awful for years, and shows no signs of improvement.

And while there are portions of Highway 47 that are in pretty good shape, that highway remains a nightmare from Estevan to the U.S. border (not exactly the best first impression for those visiting Canada from the U.S.). It’s even worse from Stoughton to the Trans-Canada Highway.

Highway 47 is so bad that in 2003, it was selected by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation as the second winner of its Highway from Hell. While it has been resurfaced from Estevan to Stoughton since 2003, I doubt it’s much better north of Stoughton than it was 15 years ago.

That segment north of Stoughton should be a favourite for the Worst Roads contest, but I doubt there would be enough people who drive that road on a regular basis to even nudge it into the top 10.

And that’s a key point to make for this contest: it’s probably going to be a road that has higher traffic volumes that finishes first. High Street West was last year’s winner. There were a lot of people who complained about that road during last year’s resurfacing project.

(Don’t bother nominating Souris Avenue South from Fourth Street to Perkins Street; apparently it’s going to get a much needed facelift this year).

When I hear the phrase “road rage,” I usually think of motorists losing their tempers because they get in an accident, they were cut off, they get stuck behind someone driving 20 kilometres below the speed limit or they’re stuck in traffic.

But many in this province can identify with the road rage associated with your car being damaged while on what should have been a nice Sunday drive in the country.

So if you use a highway on a regular basis, and it’s in bad shape, then nominate it. Vote for it. Encourage you friends to vote for it, too. See if it can crack the top 10, and getting people across the province talking about it.

Hopefully, I won’t have to drive on it. 

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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