They weren't the biggest announcements in the provincial government's Speech from the Throne, but they were the items that drew the most interest from residents in southeast Saskatchewan.
The government revealed that they would start pre-construction work on double lanes for Highway 39 between Estevan and the junction with Highway 18, and begin planning work to twin Highways 39 and 6 between Estevan and Regina.
It's been less than two months since Premier Brad Wall announced that the government was taking a closer look at twinning 39 and 6 due to increased traffic volumes. Wall's revelation elicited a number of reactions: excitement, satisfaction and even relief.
There was still a sense that twinning wasn't guaranteed, and the government could back away. But with twinning included in the Throne Speech, it appears that a safer Highway 39 is one step closer.
Just don't expect immediate action.
The 75-kilometre Highway 11 twinning project between Prince Albert and Saskatoon, which recently wrapped up, needed more than four years to complete.
The drive from Estevan to Regina is about 200 kilometres. And it's not first in the twinning queue, either: the government will want to tackle commitments that it made to twin Highway 39 east of Estevan, Highway 7 from Saskatoon to Delisle and Highway 16 from Saskatoon to Clavet – small stretches of highway with more traffic than anywhere between Estevan and Regina.
We're confident that the government will live up to its commitment, and that twinning will happen eventually. But it could be a few years before construction begins. It'll take several more years to complete.
The provincial government has to complete all of the land purchases, the engineering studies, the planning and all the other behind-the-scenes tasks before they can start construction. They also have to decide how to handle dicey situations, such as when Highway 39 cuts through a community, like in Yellow Grass and Midale.
Until 39 and 6 are twinned, motorists have to practice common sense. Okay, they always have to practice common sense, even after the highways are divided. But it's incumbent for motorists to be smart behind the wheel.
If you think you should be able to drive 130 kilometres per hour between Estevan and Weyburn at 4 p.m. on a weekday, and that you should be able to pass several vehicles at once, then you're not exercising common sense. It's one thing to speed. But if your cruise control is more than 20 kilometres an hour above the speed limit, then you pose a risk to yourself and to other motorists.
It's acceptable to cuss and swear when you're the 10th vehicle in an 11-vehicle game of Follow the Leader Down Highway 39. And it's acceptable to wish that you had taken Highways 47 and 33 to get from Estevan to Regina.
But it's not acceptable to drive in a fashion that puts lives at risk.
So slow down, practice safe driving, use some common sense, and exercise patience.