It's been a year since Premier Brad Wall came to Estevan, and said that the provincial government had switched its tune on Highways 39 and 6 between Estevan and Regina.
Prior to that moment, Highway 39 had been a source of consternation for all in the Estevan area. While some relentlessly lobbied the government for twinning, others viewed double lanes as a fantasy. They had resigned themselves to the inevitability of passing lanes – a much-maligned concept for local residents who recognized that it would do little to make the highways safer.
So when Wall made his announcement, southeast Saskatchewan residents who endure the Highway 39 traffic horror show each day were understandably excited. Everyone knew the project would take time, but there was finally a reason for optimism.
The latest numbers from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways seem to justify the provincial government's decision to proceed with twinning.
The government tabulates the traffic numbers on all of its highways for several days each year, and then releases an average tally. Every checkpoint on Highway 39 and 6 now averages at least 3,000 vehicles per day. You can be certain it would be much higher if so many didn't resort to using Highways 47 and 33 when travelling from Estevan to Regina.
The busiest area, not surprisingly, was Highway 39 between Estevan and Bienfait, with 6,650 vehicles per day. While this stretch of highway didn't grow by 700 vehicles each day for the first time in several years, it's still more than enough traffic to justify twinning.
Other numbers are startling.
There were 4,460 vehicles per day on Highway 39 northwest of Estevan; 5,500 southeast of Weyburn; 4,520 northwest of Weyburn; and at least 4,000 per day on the stretch of Highway 6 that will be twinned. It peaks at 4,810 just south of Regina.
The government did not divulge any numbers for heavy truck traffic on 39 and 6, but you can be sure that trucks continue to account for an irregularly high number of vehicles per day.
Local residents will need patience when it comes to twinning. It won't be easy. With word of each accident and close call, our patience will diminish slightly. We know the double lanes are coming. But it might be several years before actual construction begins. And then it will take several more years before the work is finished.