Thursday July 24, 2014

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Government eases road restrictions for farmers

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The Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure has eased spring road restrictions for farmers to haul their product to awaiting rail cars, in response to the backlog in grain movement.

"Our government is committed to assisting farmers in getting their grain out of the bins and to market as quickly as possible," Highways and Infrastructure Minister Don McMorris said.

"While we will continue to protect our investment in highways during the spring thaw, we will allow for some exceptions to spring road bans to facilitate farmers' urgent transportation needs."

Shippers and farmers may apply to district offices for permits that will allow for heavier than published spring weights. Circumstances where permits could be granted include roads where ministry staff determine heavier loads will not cause undue road damage, or during colder than seasonal temperatures.

Haulers must hold a permit to access the heavier weights.

This flexible approach applies only to agricultural commodities.

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The ministry is also launching two pilot projects this year that will see nearly 37 kilometres of rural highway upgraded to supergrids, which will allow for year-round heavy hauling for shippers and farmers.

"Many highways across Saskatchewan are subject to weight restrictions during spring thaw," McMorris said. "Our supergrid pilot projects on Highways 361 and 47 will see low traffic volume, poor-condition roads upgraded to safer, full primary weight supergrids that are no longer subject to weight restrictions."

Supergrids, at half of the cost of a primary weight pavement, have been used successfully in Alberta and other jurisdictions. These wider grid roads, built on an engineered base, can accommodate the heaviest allowable payloads. The two supergrid projects, which are planned for construction this year, are:

*Thirty-one kilometres of Highway 361 from the junction of Highway 9 east to Alida;

*A 5 1/2 kilometre portion of Highway 47, beginning 20 kilometres north of Stoughton.

"We are pleased that the government recognized the need for improvements on Highway 361, and we look forward to the upgrades," Alida Mayor James Boettcher said. "There is a tremendous amount of oil and gas activity in our area, but with that comes the need to upgrade the road system to accommodate heavy truck traffic."

With the recently announced budget, the province has invested $1.8 billion in transportation since 2011, well ahead of the pace to meet the government's commitment to invest $2.2 billion over four years.


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