MLA “demanding answers” in Highway 302 washout

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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The government’s handling of the Highway 302 washout west of Prince Albert has been a gong show, area residents say.

 

After more than two months of taking a 13.8-kilometre detour around the washout, area resident Les Arcand decided enough was enough.

On Thursday, he hosted a community meeting at the Lily Plain Co-operative Hall.

Fellow area residents, counsellors, Saskatchewan NDP highways critic Buckley Belanger and even Batoche’s Sask. Party MLA Delbert Kirsch capped the meeting with the same “gong show” conclusion.

The washout took place on May 3. After a couple days of single-lane traffic, the 13.8 km detour was put into place.

With the detour still being used more than two months later, area residents had various criticisms to lodge at the government.

Rather than a 13.8-km detour, why not use the old highway, 50 metres or so to the south of Highway 302?

The existing detour is full of “crap, crap gravel,” RM of Duck Lake Coun. Dale Ksyniuk summarized, adding that with the traffic it’s getting now the grid roads are “getting pounded out.”

“The gravel is not cheap and I know they’ve loaded those roads up with gravel,” he concluded.

One of these loads included the grader pushing gravel to the sides of the road, which created a pool over the surface of the road.

The state of the detour roads has been so poor at times that it damaged the vehicle of area resident Mike Woods, who lost a parking light and shifter cable.

As for the current state of Highway 302, Bob Wilkinson said that it’s the worst he’s ever seen, and he’s lived in the area since 1938.

Although there have been closures in the past, this is not only the longest-lasting closure, but also the longest accompanying detour, he said.

Heavy equipment has been on site for weeks, although they don’t appear to have moved very much since then, residents told Thursday’s invited guests.

Pumping has been taking place, but Arcand was able to show Thursday’s crowd several pictures of twisted or jammed pumps.

I’m going to demand answers from highways to see what they’re going to do about it. Delbert Kirsch

On the topic of pumping, the project would have been completed long ago if contractors opened up the already closed Highway 302 to let water flow freely, Arcand reasoned.  

After hearing a list of grievances Kirsch promised accountability.

“Highways has been making some mistakes -- some serious mistakes,” he told Thursday’s crowd.

Following Thursday’s community meeting, he promised to tour the site, jot down more notes, and to bring them directly to Highways Minister Nancy Heppner.

The message Kirsch said that he’s gleaned from Thursday’s meeting was that “highways has let us down, here,” he summarized. “There are things happening here that shouldn’t be happening.

“I’m going to demand answers from highways to see what they’re going to do about it.”

Although Belanger’s more akin to sparring with Sask. Party MLAs, there was no disagreement at Thursday’s meeting, with both MLAs in agreement that what’s taken place on Highway 302 was wrong.

“This thing is too important to be partisan, and we’re finding out that there are a lot of problems, due to the fact that there’s moisture … but it’s not just the moisture that’s causing problems, it’s the delays that are happening,” Belanger said.

“Preparation was not done properly, anticipating this problem was not done properly and thereby it causes frustration for local residents.”

The frustration will continue, with Ksyniuk noting that contractors’ current plan will see the road closed for at least another couple weeks -- the latest disappointment, he said.

“This shouldn’t have been a three-month fix, or what will be a four-month fix -- a five month or a six-month fix.”

Organizations: Lily Plain Co, Sask. Party

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