The two new sets of passing lanes between Prince Albert and Christopher Lake were officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday morning.
Government officials say the project was completed ahead of schedule, and will improve safety on Hwy 2. Officials said they will also improve traffic flow for commuters to and from communities and parks in the Prince Albert area and the province’s north.
“This is known as the gateway to the north, Highway 2, (and) this is going to make it a lot safer on our highways,” said Fred Bradshaw, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Highways. “We have been working hard to improve the highway safety end of it, whether it has been intersection improvements or passing lanes. We want to see the safety of our highways improved within Saskatchewan.”
Highway 2 has heavy traffic as was evident as the ceremony went on.
“There is a lot of traffic on this highway and it was very important for us to keep our highways safe for people (and) for our tourist traffic,” Bradshaw explained. “Also, of course being in Prince Albert, we have logging traffic and we all know that is very important to see that going forward.”
Bradshaw said good summer weather conditions helped crews complete the project ahead of schedule. The weather cooperated in order to have the project completed ahead of schedule.
“We have had a great summer. (It) hasn’t been great for agriculture but it has been great for highway building. The projects … that have been tendered have been coming in quicker than what we expected,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw, Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross, Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave, Saskatchewan Rivers MLA Nadine Wilson and Batoche MLA Delbert Kirsch were all in attendance. Area representatives also included the Reeve of the RM of Buckland Don Fyrk and Lac La Ronge Indian Band councillor John Halkett were also in attendance,
Wilson served as Emcee and there were speeches from Bradshaw, Fyrk and Halkett before the official ceremony.
The passing lanes are in the RM of Paddockwood, just on the border of Buckland. Fyrk lives in the area and sees the benefit of building them.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Fyrk said on Thursday. “The first time I came across (passing lanes) it was down at Maple Creek and when I saw it down there I thought, ‘man this is a great idea.’ Then the next thing I know they are announcing it up here. If people use these properly that is going to save a lot of tragedy, headaches, (and) time. It’s a win-win all around.”
Fyrk said traffic in the area can vary, with everything from bulk haulers, to campers, to boat trailers to semis using the highway. There are also regular commuters, and the local farming community.
“You get all kinds of traffic,” Fyrk said.
Despite the upgrades, Fyrk added said there are still a few dangerous areas on the highway. He’s concerned about potential accidents just before the passing lanes and said there is another bad spot after Christopher Lake.
“There are accidents happening up there too,” he said. “The last fatality on this highway, I can’t remember when that was, but I know over on the Shellbrook highway, Highway 3, the last one was a couple of years ago and there is no need for that.”
The total investment for this project is $7.5 million. It’s the first passing lane project completed under the province’s $2.4 billion stimulus program
“This investment is greatly appreciated by residents and motorists travelling to and from Prince Albert,” Sask. Rivers MLA Nadine Wilson said in a press release.
“Highway 2 is such an important corridor for the area and these new passing lanes will benefit so many people through safety and expanded capacity for an ever-growing area.”
Over the next two years, the Government of Saskatchewan plans to build 30 new sets of passing lanes. They’ve constructed 27 in the last four years.
Studies have shown passing lanes can reduce collisions by as much as 25 per cent. Bradshaw pointed to projects beginning on Highway 3 to Shellbrook as other important ones that have begun.
“We are going to go out towards Shellbrook,” Bradshaw said. “There is passing lanes going in out there, plus we are going to be twinning a portion of that about seven kilometres out of Prince Albert, so that is going to also improve the safety for people going out in that direction. There again, it’s a very busy highway.”
“We have projects ongoing. We plan on doing another 30 passing lanes in the next few years,” he added.
Highway 10, the province’s first major passing lanes pilot project, has seen 75 per cent fewer fatal accidents five years after its completion.
According to the province, the Government of Saskatchewan has invested more than $10.6 billion in highways infrastructure since 2008, improving more than 17,100 km of Saskatchewan highways. This is in addition to more than 1,350 km of provincial highways constructed this year as part of the 10-year Growth Plan goal to build and upgrade 10,000 km of highways.