The NDP is calling for an urgent meeting with the Saskatchewan government to discuss the expensive Regina Bypass project.
The cost has escalated from the original estimate of $800 million to what NDP Deputy Leader Trent Wotherspoon calls an “outrageous” $1.88 billion.
“We don’t have a bottomless pit of money as a province and we have lots of priorities that we need to address,” said Wotherspoon.
He wants to persuade the government to find a more cost-effective plan, one that includes an breaking out of the P3 contract and finding an alternate route further east of Tower Road. The NDP is also calling for more safety measures along the dangerous stretch of Highway 1 east of the city, including traffic lights at several intersections.
“If you drive through those arteries, you’ll see cross after cross after crosses (that) represent lives and families that have lost loved ones,” said Wotherspoon.
It mirrors the call by a group of Pilot Butte residents that have been rallying on the side of the highway. They argue people are literally dying waiting for the overpasses to be built. The first two will be complete by the fall of 2017, at Balgonie and White City.
The Saskatchewan Party is standing by its P3 model and is not planning on meeting with the NDP. Don McMorris, minister responsible for SGI, said the government held a technical briefing last December, although that was before the cost estimate rose to its current level.
According to McMorris, two NDP MLAs attended that briefing in December and an invitation was extended to Wotherspoon for further briefings on the matter, which was declined.
McMorris admits the bypass is the biggest infrastructure project the province has ever seen, but stressed the bypass is much needed as it’s currently laid out.
“We need this infrastructure to meet the demands of a growing province. We’re seeing traffic volumes increasing,” said Don McMorris, minister responsible for SGI.
Although some people believe traffic lights will improve safety on the highway, the government does not. Its traffic engineers have recommended against stopping cars on a busy highway explaining that often increases the frequency of rear-end collisions.
“Traffic lights do not prevent collisions, especially in a highway setting,” said McMorris.
He points to the three teenagers from Carrot River who died in a construction zone when a semi slammed into them from behind.
Last summer, McMorris announced a speed limit reduction along Highway 1 east of the city. He said the government also plans to roll out a traffic accommodation program within the next month or two.