The fact that producers and truck drivers find the Regina bypass roundabouts too small to navigate has been well documented. However, the Sask. Party’s mismanagement of the $2 billion P3 project has had a knock-on effect on the residents of Balgonie who, documents obtained by the NDP reveal, have felt “trapped” because they have had their Main Street access blocked off.
“Under Sask. Party direction, this $400 million P3 project swelled to $2 billion, and they still managed to get it wrong,” said NDP Highways and Infrastructure Critic Buckley Belanger. “Because it wasn’t designed using local expertise, their $2 billion by-pass doesn’t fit farm equipment, it doesn’t fit tractor trailers and it’s not working for residents in the area.”
Documents obtained by the NDP through freedom of information show that after a truck got stuck on the Balgonie roundabout on September 25, 2017, it created havoc not only for truckers and producers, but also for Balgonie residents. With the truck stuck in the roundabout and no response from the company managing the project for over 12 hours, other semis couldn’t get past the blockage, so they diverted on to Main Street in Balgonie to gain access to Highway 1. However, the Sask. Party government blocked access to the highway from Main Street, trapping the diverted traffic as well as residents of the town until the truckers took it upon themselves to remove the barriers.
According to emails to the Ministry of Highways, Balgonie residents complained, “We feel like we are in jail and the new overpass is the gatekeeper!” Another writes: “With the chain link fence in the ditch you make it also look like we are in the PA penitentiary! We do not have a lot of time before there is a revolt.”
The Sask. Party put a foreign conglomerate in charge of the bypass, but documents show that 12 hours after the incident was reported, there was still no response or plan to fix it. And when asked for screening information on oversize vehicles, the conglomerate had none to provide.
“A bypass that made residents of the area feel trapped or that was too small for truck drivers to navigate safely wasn’t what the people of Saskatchewan had in mind when they were told that they had to pay $2 billion dollars to a foreign conglomerate,” said NDP Regina Bypass Critic Cathy Sproule. “The Sask. Party needs to explain why they have tied us to a P3 partner that is asleep at the wheel.”