Saskatchewan

Newly opened $1.8B Regina Bypass 'will save lives,' premier says; truckers say it will end 'nightmare'

Drivers can now completely avoid the city of Regina when travelling on the Trans-Canada Highway in Saskatchewan.

About 21,000 drivers expected to use route — hailed as Sask.'s biggest highway project — every day

The Regina Bypass opened officially on Tuesday. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

Drivers can now completely avoid the city of Regina when travelling on the Trans-Canada Highway in Saskatchewan.

The Regina Bypass officially opened Tuesday, after about four years of planning and construction.

The roadway, billed as the largest highway project in Saskatchewan's history, came at a cost of $1.8 billion. 

As its name suggests, the bypass diverts traffic from Highway 1 away from the city, so heavy trucks can avoid major roadways like Victoria Avenue. 

It includes 12 overpasses and 40 kilometres of four-lane highway. 

The bypass is expected to speed up the movement of goods and ease congestion on city streets.

Gord Matt, who has been a truck driver for 45 years, hauls freight through Regina four to six times a week. He's looking forward to avoiding traffic in the city. 

"It's a pain in the ass," said Matt. "Victoria Avenue is a nightmare and then trying to turn left onto Ring Road, it's a nightmare. You've got people constantly pulling in front of you hitting the brakes.

"So the bypass will be nice for that."

Gord Matt, a truck driver of 45 years, said he might still have to stop in Regina to fuel up when he comes through because of a contract his company has with Husky Energy. (CBC)

Lorne McDonald, a trucker of 15 years, had similar concerns. 

"Traffic, like bumper-to-bumper traffic, and the lights … slows you down."

'Cannot put a price on life'

The bypass has been surrounded by controversy, with criticism over how the province purchased and expropriated land to clear a path for it, its cost and its location. 

But during a ceremonial opening Monday, Premier Scott Moe said safety was the driving force behind the project. 

"The Regina Bypass will save lives," he said.

That's the hope of Wanda Campbell, whose 17-year-old son, Lane, died six years ago as he was crossing Highway 1 east of Regina. 

"There's a trail of crosses, a trail of heartbreak and broken lives connected with this part of the highway, and something needed to be done," said Campbell.

"You cannot put a price on life, or a price on what has been lost because of a catastrophic injury." 

Wanda Campbell addresses the crowd at the ceremonial opening of the Regina Bypass. Her 17-year-old son died in a highway collision while trying to cross the Trans-Canada Highway east of Regina. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

One fire chief east of Regina said the early phases of the bypass have cut collisions in half.

Premier Moe, a former farmer who holds a licence to drive a semi, drove the first transport truck on the bypass.

The route is now open to all drivers, and is expected to see 21,000 each day.

With files from Bonnie Allen

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