Survey and culvert work is underway on the $21.7 million two-year construction project that will turn Highway 55 into an export corridor into northern Manitoba.
Currently, the northern route is only open for three-months-a-year and unequipped for heavy trucks. Once work is completed, the route is planned to be operational for 12-months-a-year and serve as a dust free primary weight highway.
An economic impact study written by Stephen Johnson of Praxis Consulting found that the completion of the primary weight route would support the more efficient trade of goods and services in key sectors such as agriculture, mining, tourism and forestry; reduce emissions due to more efficient truck movements and reduced rail mileage to Port of Churchill; as well as improve northern community access to education, medical services, food, and fuel.
Johnson estimated completion of the route could lead to a $7.2 billion increase to the GDP, $894 million in tax revenue for the provinces, $1.9 billion tax revenues to the federal government over 20 years as well as the potential of 12,000 new direct, in-direct and induced jobs.
Roman Charko, Carrot River’s mayor, called the construction a “game changer.”
“This transportation infrastructure investment has come at a time when we need it the most to export our agriculture, forestry and mining products to global markets,” Charko said. “Currently we face high transportation and input costs and this is not sustainable.’’
Gateway Keewatin Corridor Inc. has been lobbying for improvements to the northern highway system since 2003.
The group is of the opinion that the problem of the high costs of doing business is not the northern location, but rather the transportation policies of the prairie provinces that is creating an economic deficit to northern industries and communities.
“With the cost of transportation, you have to haul bigger loads and everything else,” said Chris Hudyma, Gateway Keewatin Corridor Inc.’s secretary. “We need that road to be heavier weight, and we need that road to be heavier weight and we need it to open 12-months a year.”
Hudyma said the government guaranteed that there would be no detours as work is being done.
“Any construction delay would be normal like anywhere else. So traffic can continue to move through. There may be some delays, but emergency vehicles and everything else will be business as usual.”
Gateway Keewatin Corridor Inc. said there still remains improvements of dust control and upgrades in the forest area east of Shoal Lake First Nation to the Manitoba border as well as the need to harmonize traffic regulations between the two provinces. Manitoba Highway 283 from the Saskatchewan border to The Pas, Man. requires further road improvements.
Jessica R. Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal