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Saskatchewan’s Official Opposition calls on provincial government to improve northern highways

File / Global News

Official Opposition Leader Ryan Meili was joined by the NDP candidate for Athabasca on Friday to call attention to the conditions of several northern highways.

NDP candidate and La Loche mayor Georgina Jolibois said this byelection is about getting a representative in the North “who can effectively advocate on behalf of all our communities.”

Jolibois said it’s important northern residents have a good quality of life and therefore they need a good road system.

Read more: New highway cameras installed across Saskatchewan to help with safe holiday travel

“Where we lack the support is with the province. The province will come up and meet with us and sit through a meeting with us and then talk to us,” Jolibois said.

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“But they are not really listening because when they send information afterwards, it’s just information that are really just information and there’s no action plan attached to it,” she added.

The roadways of particular concern to the NDP and Jolibois are Highway 155, which connects Île-à-la-Crosse, Buffalo Narrows and La Loche; Highway 9, for which municipal leaders have been calling for an overhaul due to ongoing damage from logging trucks; and Highway 905 connecting Stony Rapids with the rest of the province.

“These communities and all of Northern Saskatchewan contribute so much to the Saskatchewan economy. We need to return that by improving the quality of life and a big part of that is making sure people can get in and out of northern Saskatchewan safely and reliably,” Meili stated.

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The group would like to see regular improvements to Highway 155 and an upgrade of Highway 905 up to Stony Rapids to an all-season accessible road.

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Meili would also like to see the province hire local workers for the projects.

According to the Ministry of Highways, the Saskatchewan government is spending nearly $68 million on northern roads and airports in 2021 to 2022.

This funding includes $2.54 million to improve eight sections of Highway 155 north of Buffalo Narrows and Highway 908, as well as $4.89 million to complete improvements to Highway 914 due to erosion near the river.

A $5.4-million contract was also awarded for construction and surfacing on Highway 155 north of Buffalo Narrows for this upcoming spring as well as construction and surfacing on Highway 908.

Another $1.38 million has been set aside for a grade raise on Highway 165 east of Beauval.

Read more: Nearly $11M in roadway improvements completed at Rowan’s Ravine Provincial Park

Additionally, the ministry spent more than $2.95 million on upgrades for Highway 905 and culvert replacements north and south of the Wollaston Lake Access this past construction season.

Routine maintenance was completed this summer on the section of Highway 9 to repair cracks, potholes and surface breaks, the ministry stated, adding that spot sealing was also done to seal the surface to prevent moisture in the road bed.

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The ministry added it is constantly evaluating the state of all roads and projects are prioritized based on the condition of the highway and rated against other projects.

“Road condition data is collected regularly to assess condition and for long term planning. The data collected includes rutting, cracking and the ride quality. In addition, daily traffic counts, including the number of trucks that use certain highway sections are also factored in the prioritization process. Any changes in the condition will reflect in the prioritization process,” the statement added.

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