Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News

 

39 Highway continues...

Posted 11/15/16 (Tue)

There’s a major construction project going on in southern Saskatchewan that is going to directly impact North Dakota and few officials in the state seem concerned about it.

The Canadian federal government and the province of Saskatchewan are funding a four-lane highway project from Regina to the border at North Portal.

That’s more than 120 miles of Saskatchewan Provincial Highway 39 and it’s going to take several years, but the project was set in motion in 2015, construction continued this summer and the plan for next season has already been announced.

That means it’s going to happen and the road from Portal to Minot, which is about 90 miles, is going to be inundated with traffic.

U.S. Highway 52 is already a busy highway but traffic is going to get a lot more intense for several reasons.

No. 1) Everybody in Regina is going to see Minot as a U.S. shopping destination. Minot is 244 miles, Grand Forks is 450 miles and Great Falls is 460 miles. Minot is the closest regional shopping center and it will be utilized.

No. 2) We’ve learned through several sources that long-haul Canadian truck drivers are using U.S. 52 because it cuts off hundreds of miles on long distance hauls. There isn’t a day that goes by that you won’t see semi-trailers from British Columbia, Ontario and sometimes Quebec, on that stretch from the border to Minot.

No. 3 ) Currently there are no plans for a four-lane U.S. 52 to counter what Saskatchewan is doing. A 90-mile project of that magnitude would be time consuming and expensive. There’s no doubt DOT knows how the traffic on U.S. 52 has increased in the past 10 years. Instead, they’re building roundabouts in small towns like Carrington.

No. 4) Enter Canadian Pacific Railway. There is a good section of railroad right-of-way in the Des Lacs River Valley that would be a burden to circumvent.

No. 5) Some of the locals say a four-lane highway should be built “up on top,” meaning out of the valley, but then what happens to the existing road. It too would become an expensive albatross.

This isn’t a pork barrel political stunt to get a district to have a better highway. This is an imminent problem with a legitimate concern and how traffic will be dealt with after Highway 39 is done.

The closer it gets to finished, additional traffic will be going to Minot, friends in Regina and Estevan have already said that.

It means communities like Kenmare and Bowbells will have a significant increase in traffic.

You can look at that two ways. With increased traffic comes additional opportunities for sales and marketing. It also brings congestion and a higher risk for accidents.

And that’s really why the Saskatchewan government decided to four lane Provincial 39. There were too many fatalities on that road and the government finally caved in to public pressure.

Do we want that risk shifting to North Dakota? Probably not, but it doesn’t appear to concern DOT in the least.

There are some people along the U.S. 52 route who are suggesting they bypass DOT and go straight to the federal government with their concern since DOT isn’t listening. After all, it is a federal highway and federal funds would build it. That’s how Provincial 39 got the nod but the difference there was the Saskatchewan provincial government notified the federal government of the need.

There are still others who are calling for the road to be turned into an Interstate highway and somehow link it to Alaska.

A four-lane U.S. 52, however, is a concern of property owners along the route who don’t want to see a two-lane U.S. 52 getting 40 percent more traffic on two lanes of highway?

For them, it’s a double-edged sword because they want the safety, but they don’t want to lose property through eminent domain for a wider highway.

Portal, Lignite, Bowbells, Kenmare, Carpio, Berthold, Foxholm and Minot all stand to gain from this because Canadian travelers will stop in these communities to have a burger and a beer, gas up or pick up a few forgotten items before crossing the border.

These communities will see increased sales, but for Minot it will be an obvious increase.

There’s a major construction project going on in southern Saskatchewan that is going to directly impact North Dakota and few officials in the state seem concerned about it.

The Canadian federal government and the province of Saskatchewan are funding a four-lane highway project from Regina to the border at North Portal.

That’s more than 120 miles of Saskatchewan Provincial Highway 39 and it’s going to take several years, but the project was set in motion in 2015, construction continued this summer and the plan for next season has already been announced.

That means it’s going to happen and the road from Portal to Minot, which is about 90 miles, is going to be inundated with traffic.

U.S. Highway 52 is already a busy highway but traffic is going to get a lot more intense for several reasons.

No. 1) Everybody in Regina is going to see Minot as a U.S. shopping destination. Minot is 244 miles, Grand Forks is 450 miles and Great Falls is 460 miles. Minot is the closest regional shopping center and it will be utilized.

No. 2) We’ve learned through several sources that long-haul Canadian truck drivers are using U.S. 52 because it cuts off hundreds of miles on long distance hauls. There isn’t a day that goes by that you won’t see semi-trailers from British Columbia, Ontario and sometimes Quebec, on that stretch from the border to Minot.

No. 3 ) Currently there are no plans for a four-lane U.S. 52 to counter what Saskatchewan is doing. A 90-mile project of that magnitude would be time consuming and expensive. There’s no doubt DOT knows how the traffic on U.S. 52 has increased in the past 10 years. Instead, they’re building roundabouts in small towns like Carrington.

No. 4) Enter Canadian Pacific Railway. There is a good section of railroad right-of-way in the Des Lacs River Valley that would be a burden to circumvent.

No. 5) Some of the locals say a four-lane highway should be built “up on top,” meaning out of the valley, but then what happens to the existing road. It too would become an expensive albatross.

This isn’t a pork barrel political stunt to get a district to have a better highway. This is an imminent problem with a legitimate concern and how traffic will be dealt with after Highway 39 is done.

The closer it gets to finished, additional traffic will be going to Minot, friends in Regina and Estevan have already said that.

It means communities like Kenmare and Bowbells will have a significant increase in traffic.

You can look at that two ways. With increased traffic comes additional opportunities for sales and marketing. It also brings congestion and a higher risk for accidents.

And that’s really why the Saskatchewan government decided to four lane Provincial 39. There were too many fatalities on that road and the government finally caved in to public pressure.

Do we want that risk shifting to North Dakota? Probably not, but it doesn’t appear to concern DOT in the least.

There are some people along the U.S. 52 route who are suggesting they bypass DOT and go straight to the federal government with their concern since DOT isn’t listening. After all, it is a federal highway and federal funds would build it. That’s how Provincial 39 got the nod but the difference there was the Saskatchewan provincial government notified the federal government of the need.

There are still others who are calling for the road to be turned into an Interstate highway and somehow link it to Alaska.

A four-lane U.S. 52, however, is a concern of property owners along the route who don’t want to see a two-lane U.S. 52 getting 40 percent more traffic on two lanes of highway?

For them, it’s a double-edged sword because they want the safety, but they don’t want to lose property through eminent domain for a wider highway.

Portal, Lignite, Bowbells, Kenmare, Carpio, Berthold, Foxholm and Minot all stand to gain from this because Canadian travelers will stop in these communities to have a burger and a beer, gas up or pick up a few forgotten items before crossing the border.

These communities will see increased sales, but for Minot it will be an obvious increase.

It’s time for DOT to start thinking about Provincial 39 and what it will mean to western North Dakota. Both the U.S. and Canadian ports of entry have already upgraded in anticipation of the increased traffic.