Highway 59 concerns resurface as cottage season starts
Drivers say they want highway between Winnipeg and Grand Beach twinned
Now that summer has more or less arrived in Manitoba, questions are being raised about whether part of Highway 59 — a popular route from Winnipeg to cottage country — will ever be twinned.
Premier Greg Selinger announced earlier this week that the government will upgrade bridges and paving, and will immediately start working on plans to revamp the intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 59.
However, the announcement does not include plans to twin Highway 59 from the city north to Grand Beach, prompting some to wonder when the province will improve the busy and dangerous section of road.
At least 231 crashes were reported on Highway 59 between Winnipeg and Grand Beach in the past two years, and six people have been killed there since 2009.
"It's hard because people are in a hurry and, I mean, they pass when it's not safe … so you sort of really got to watch," said Dora Blanchard, who lives in Lakeshore Heights.
Alen Hocaluk, who lives on the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation and runs a gas bar near the highway, says many drivers who use the highway regularly want to see it twinned for safety reasons.
"Along the sides of the highway you'll see how terrible it is," he said. "You couldn't pull off the highway if you had a flat tire without basically falling in the ditch."
Since 1984, the provincial government has been trying to acquire a 40-hectare piece of land, owned by the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, to expand the highway.
The two parties were working on brokering a deal, but it was put on hold two years ago.
Government officials told CBC News the deal was put on hold because it had to focus on other upgrades first, but talks are now set to resume.
"Now that we've come to that agreement … we don't want to wait another five to 10 years. We'd like implementation as quickly as possible," said Brokenhead Chief Jim Bear.
Bear said the First Nation had the land assessed in 2011 and he's waiting for a response from the province.