Highway officials support super two-lane concept

ND, Saskatchwan officials support super two-lane concept for Highway 52, Provincial 39

Jill Schramm/MDN
David Marit, minister of Highways & Infrastructure in Saskatchewan, left, visits with Dennis Moore, Estevan, of Southeast Sask Transportation Group in Kenmare Thursday.

Jill Schramm/MDN David Marit, minister of Highways & Infrastructure in Saskatchewan, left, visits with Dennis Moore, Estevan, of Southeast Sask Transportation Group in Kenmare Thursday.

KENMARE – Highway officials in North Dakota and Saskatchewan say a super two-lane highway may be the way to go to facilitate traffic from Regina to Jamestown.

David Marit, minister of Highways & Infrastructure in Saskatchewan, said Thursday the province is designing a project to build 16 to 18 sets of passing lanes on about 100 miles of two-laned Provincial 39, with potential to complete the new lanes by 2020.

Thomas Sorel, director of the North Dakota Department of Transportation, said a similar plan is worth considering for U.S. Highway 52, which picks up where Provincial 39 leaves off at Portal.

“Even though four-laning isn’t in our plans right now, what has a lot of potential here in this scenario is to continue to look at where Super 2 options might work,” Sorel said, acknowledging there may be a need for improvements along Highway 52. “We have to really understand the growth that’s occurring in this quarter and we have to keep on top of it. As we move forward, we need to continue to monitor this.”

Marit and Sorel spoke in Kenmare at the U.S. Highway 52/Provincial 39 Summit, sponsored by Kenmare Community Development Corp. and Minot Area Development Corp. with support from the Central North American Trade Corridor Association.

Jill Schramm/MDN
Thomas Sorel, director of the North Dakota Department of Transportation, stands in front of a highway map as he speaks at the U.S. Highway 52/Provincial 39 Summit in Kenmare Thursday.

Jill Schramm/MDN Thomas Sorel, director of the North Dakota Department of Transportation, stands in front of a highway map as he speaks at the U.S. Highway 52/Provincial 39 Summit in Kenmare Thursday.

Sorel said the state has invested about $85 million in Highway 52 since 2011 and has additional maintenance work planned.

“Even before me,” said Sorel, who took office last August, “it was recognized by the DOT how important this quarter was and how important it is to keep it up. We will continue to work with you. We will continue to look at potential options in the future.”

Ward County Commissioner Alan Walter said traffic figures on border crossings indicate the time for monitoring has come and gone and it’s time for improvements to be made.

Scott Kihle with U.S. Customs at Portal said border crossings have fallen in recent years with the decline in oil activity, but crossing numbers remain on an overall trajectory.

The Portal port saw 111,658 passenger vehicles and 74,865 commercial trucks in fiscal year 2016, which is up from 84,623 passenger vehicles and 65,278 trucks in 2000. The port at Northgate saw 27,346 passenger vehicles and 11,478 trucks in fiscal year 2016. Kihle said Northgate traffic typically finds its way to Highway 52.

Sorel said his department will look into the cost of passing lanes on Highway 52. Asked whether Highway 52 might be given higher priority on the state’s highway improvement list, Sorel could offer no clear answer. But he assured the group that the future of Highway 52 will be discussed.

Marit said the plan in Saskatchewan is to focus on passing lanes in a corridor that lies between Regina, on Provincial 6, and Estevan to the southeast, on Provincial 39. Traffic doesn’t warrant new lanes along the additional 24 miles between Estevan and the border at this time, he said.

“We are going to alleviate a lot of pressures that we are having along that highway,” he said. “We know we are going to improve safety and improve traffic because I think, quite obviously, we have seen a huge economic growth. North Dakota has seen it, too.”

Marit said the construction is expected to start next year, with the bulk of the work planned for 2019. Timing is subject to budget considerations.

Four-laning of Provincial 39 remains an option down the road, but it has been indefinitely postponed in favor of the Super 2, Marit said.

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