Oil companies may be facing major detours if road and bridge improvements aren’t made to southwest Manitoba, according to the RM of Pipestone reeve.
Oil from the south is trucked up to Cromer where the pumping station is located and Reeve Ross Tycoles said he’s worried about access to the area.
"Our concern is if the companies can’t get their oil there and the roads are getting to a point that they can’t handle that, how are they going to get to market?" Tycoles said. "I think that alone will stop or slow down the industry."
Highway 83 is of particular concern.
"As you go up 83, there’s bridges that are now 70 (km/hr) because of the wear and tear," Tycoles said, adding Provincial Road 255, which cuts across to Cromer is also poor.
"That access there is a bad road in the spring and it was impassable at times," he said.
A bridge right at the Cromer valley is what Tycoles calls a "suspect bridge."
Tycoles also noted a bridge in the valley on PR 256, two on Highway 83 north of Pipestone and east-west bridges in the RMs of Edward, Arthur and Brenda.
"All of those bridges have to be maintained so that they can handle the traffic," he said.
Tycoles said PR 256 is not a permitted road, so in the winter season oil companies cannot haul on it.
"It causes them to go whichever way they can go, which is usually up 83 and then across 255," he said.
PR 250 at Souris also can’t handle oil loads during the winter and Highway 21 at Griswold is "awful," Tycoles added.
Oil from southeast Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba in the Pierson and Waskada areas all come up the roads to Cromer.
"What’s going to happen here is if the bridges and the highways are not looked at and the roads are not looked at, there will be access problems to the Cromer pumping station," he said.
The Coulter Bridge near Waskada along PR 251, which was a casualty of last year’s spring flooding, is still out of service. There has been a detour in place while Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation works on a permanent replacement.
"Obviously between the flood and whatever else that has gone on, there are crises in this province with bridges, etc.," he said. "We have a major industry that needs to have some funding put into bridges and that to keep it running."
Tycoles said if key bridges or roads are shut down for safety reasons as time goes on, the traffic may have to be rerouted up Highway 10 to Brandon and then on to Virden and south on Highway 83.
"That’s a long way out of the way," Tycoles said. "We’re talking 250 to 300 trucks a day hauling oil."
Tycoles said a long-term plan to improve highways and bridges in the area needs to be put in place.
"The Coulter bridge is immediate, but the future is the industry so it’s going to be something that we want to try to work towards, to put funds into a pot, to fix the bridges as they need to be fixed," he said.
Tycoles had a meeting with provincial officials on July 26, which included representatives from Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation and Innovation, Energy and Mines Minister Dave Chomiak.
"The government has worked with us in trying to come up with a project, they’re having a steering committee formed," he said. "We know it’s not something that’s going to be immediate … it’s got to be a long-term plan because we think it’s here for 10 years and how are we going to be sustainable?"
Tycoles said the next step is another meeting with the province and the Association of Manitoba Municipalities in September.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 7, 2012