Estimates (16 May 2005)

Departmental Estimates

From Intergovernmental Affairs and Infrastructure Committee Hansard
16 May 2005

Highways and Transportation
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Mr. Stewart: Mr. Chair, Mr. Minister, with regard to a specific highway in my constituency, that portion of Highway No. 19 between Highway 42 and the community of Elbow is the only access to the resort communities on that portion of Diefenbaker Lake from the south, Mr. Minister. And its annually in terrible shape, and it is again. From this time of the year until mid-summer or sometimes into the fall, its full of holes and with chunks of pavement strewn about the part of the surface that is left. People drive on the wrong side of the road routinely. There are hills and curves and deer and its a very busy road in tourist season. And its actually an impediment, the condition its been has been an impediment to the resort communities of Elbow, Mistusinne, and Douglas Park.

Im wondering whats planned for that highway for this particular summer, Mr. Minister.

Mr. Schmidt: As the member mentioned, this is a, this is a thin membrane surface highway that runs from Elbow to the junction of Highway 42. Weve had the opportunity to do a fair bit of work on Highway 19 from Elbow north to bring that up to a granular pavement. We continue to look for opportunities where we can make some improvements to this road, and at this time what we will be doing is we will be assessing the condition of all the provincial TMS [thin membrane surface] highways as the road beds continue to dry and as that gives us opportunity then to go in and do some more permanent repairs.

Until that time well be doing temporary repairs, emergency repairs. Well be signing and flagging the hazard areas to allow motorists the . . . to identify those areas to motorists so that they can slow down. And then as the conditions dry out, well go in; well do some more permanent repairs with our crews. And well do what we can then through our routine maintenance efforts to bring that into a safe condition and smooth surface for the public to use.

Mr. Stewart: Thank you, sir. By permanent repairs, does . . . would that mean rebuilding of portions of the highway entirely or is that just new aggregate and pavement on top of the roadbed?

Mr. Schmidt: These more permanent repairs would be through our maintenance effort so they would entail such things as temporary repairs when we have to actually revert short sections to gravel until such time as the roadbed dries out. Then we would come in and the permanent repairs would be restoring those areas to a dust-free surface, either with possibly some strategic strength in some of the weaker areas with some granular base material, gravel material, compacting it, and then putting a seal coat application on top of that as a dust-free surface again.

Mr. Stewart: Thank you. This is a road that tourists use and its the only access to those resort communities and really the major developments around Lake Diefenbaker. This is a potential tourist attraction that could be huge for southern Saskatchewan. I know the Alberta people would like access to it as well. And its a beautiful lake and very much underdeveloped and this road is part of the reason that its as underdeveloped as it is. I hope that any temporary gravel sections will be for a short duration only.

And I guess Id just . . . my final question, Id just like some assurances from the minister or yourself, sir, that this road is being considered for more permanent repairs and as quickly as possible because were entering another tourist season now, and we dont want to mess it up.

Mr. Schmidt: As mentioned earlier, we will be focusing on the permanent repairs as soon as possible. And part of that has to do with, as I mentioned earlier, we allow the roadbed to dry out with the TMS because its just the thin membrane surface on there. When the subgrade does get wet with the spring moisture conditions and with the frost coming out of the ground now in the spring, we do not want to go out too early and do the permanent repairs because we want to wait till that roadbed does harden up to allow the repairs to last longer. So as that does dry out and as the frost does continue to come out of the ground, we will be out there with our crews doing our best to put those permanent repairs in place.

Mr. Stewart: If I could just ask one more. I hadnt planned on it, but I take it from the answers Im getting that there are no plans to rebuild that whole section of highway which seems quite weak.

Mr. Schmidt: At this point in time, we have been focusing on some other highways in the area that . . . such as Highway 42 where we have been able to qualify them under the Prairie Grain Roads Program for assistance. At this point in time, we do not have any opportunities identified like that for Highway 19. So there are no plans in place right now to do an upgrading to that.

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