WINNIPEG — Roadwork on the province’s main transportation artery could pave the way for increased speed limits, according to Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton.
The province, with matching funding from the federal government, expects to spend $213 million improving the Trans-Canada Highway west of Winnipeg to the Saskatchewan border.
The improvements could lead to a speed limit increase, an idea the NDP government floated in 2004 under then-premier Gary Doer.
At the time, Doer proposed looking at the increase after work to twin the entire highway was complete. The twin lanes, which used to end 10 kilometres west of Virden, weren’t completed until 2007.
Ashton said when completed, officials will determine whether the highway is safe enough to raise the speed limit to 110 km/h from 100 km/h.
While other provinces have instituted the speed increase on double-lane highways, there is only one stretch of highway in Manitoba that has a limit of 110 km/h.
A 43-kilometre stretch of highway between the Saskatchewan border and Virden was approved for the increase in 2008.
Spokesmen for the CAA Manitoba and the Manitoba Trucking Association welcomed the improvements.
CAA Manitoba vice-president Tom Scott said the auto club’s 200,000 members would welcome roadways and speeds more consistent with other jurisdictions.
Trucking association general manager Terry Shaw said the upgrades will allow larger trucks, such as long-combination vehicles (a semi pulling two full-sized trailers) to operate more safely.
“It’s investments like these that allow us to find those efficiencies and operate at maximum capacity,” Shaw said.
The investment is in addition to a $110-million pledge to improve the highway east of Winnipeg to the Ontario border.
Ashton said the work, which relies on money collected from the increase in the provincial sales tax, is intended to bring the national route up to U.S. interstate standards and includes fully paved shoulders, rumble strips, resurfacing, intersection improvements and four new bridges.
The Trans-Canada improvements detailed Monday are the latest in what has been about $1 billion worth of spending on highways — including Highway 75, the Perimeter Highway and Highway 6 to Thompson — by the NDP following last year’s PST increase by one point to eight per cent.
“I think we all recognize some of the views on the one-cent on the dollar itself, but everybody I’ve talked to said, whatever their view was on the particular decision we made last year, they said make sure you invest it in core infrastructure, and there is nothing more core than investing in Highway 1,” Ashton said.
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