A hearty but reserved cheer went up from the residents of southeast Saskatchewan last month, when Premier Brad Wall announced that the provincial government was rethinking its stance on the future of Highways 39 and 6 from Bienfait to Regina, and was now considering twinning as opposed to the locally panned passing lanes.
But if the most recent highway traffic numbers are any indication, Highways 39 and 6 aren't the only traffic safety issues facing the region.
Traffic numbers are one of the best indicators of a region's growth. More vehicles indicates more people in the region, regardless of whether they're transients or actual residents. Growth is great, but it does take a toll on a highway and traffic safety.
One of the recurring themes from the Time to Twin committee, and other groups that want to see a four-lane highway, is that the risks of travelling 39 and 6 force people to flock to Highways 47 and 33 when going from Estevan to Regina.
According to this year's traffic numbers, there were 3,020 vehicles per day at the first checkpoint on Highway 47 north of Estevan. Last year's number was 2,540. Each spot where traffic is recorded between Estevan and Stoughton saw an increase of at least 300 vehicles a day.
The traffic numbers on Highway 39 between Estevan and Weyburn were actually relatively stable, with most spots seeing an increase of 200 vehicles a day. But the traffic on 39 from Weyburn to Milestone increased by about 300 to 400 vehicles daily.
Some people who travel from Weyburn to Regina will take Highways 35 and 33 as opposed to 39 and 6, but it's not an attractive option due to the failing condition of Highway 35.
The other hot spot is Highway 13 from Stoughton to Carlyle. There were 3,670 vehicles per day west of Carlyle, compared to 3,000 per day a year ago. The daily vehicle count between Stoughton and Carlyle is at least 2,600 daily at all four checkpoints.
Passing lanes aren't viable for Highways 39 and 6, but they might have to be investigated for the busiest parts of Highway 13.
Traffic is also up on Highway 361 near Lampman, Highway 18 between Oxbow and Carnduff, Highway 9 south of Carlyle and in many other areas.
Twinning Highways 39 and 6 won't remedy all of the problems facing highways in the region. The provincial government needs to start making plans for the other highways with burgeoning traffic numbers, particularly Highway 13.