Saskatchewan Budget 2019: Broncos tragedy spurs millions for highway intersection safety
Humboldt Broncos crash 'put the spotlight' on highway safety, government says
Almost a year after the tragic Humboldt Broncos crash that killed 16 people and injured 13 others, the Saskatchewan government is increasing funding to make highway intersections across the province safer.
The government announced Wednesday that this year's provincial budget includes $20 million over the next year to improve conditions at more than 60 intersections.
That includes the corner of Highways 35 and 335 where, on April 6, 2018, semi truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu failed to brake and drove through a stop sign into the path of the Humboldt Broncos team bus. Sidhu is due to be sentenced this Friday on 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing injury.
The budgeted highway improvements will come from two programs, both of which were previously touted in the government's last throne speech in October 2018.
The Enhanced Intersection Safety Program will spend $13 million in 2019 on the installation of rumble strips, clear sight triangles and other improvements. That's a major funding increase. The throne speech said the ministry had budgeted $700,000 for the same program in 2018.
Another $52 million is earmarked under the program for the years 2020 to 2023.
The ministry had already done a preliminary review of more than 900 intersections by the time of the throne speech.
Sidhu's view of the intersection was not blocked by any environmental factors like trees near the road, according to a forensic collision report filed earlier this year.
The Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure said in a Budget 2019 release that the Humboldt collision "put the spotlight on intersection safety in Saskatchewan."
Projects for this year include:
- Lighting improvements on Highway 3 at Shellbrook.
- Intersection and lighting improvements at Highway 21 and Highway 307 north of Kindersley.
- Intersection improvements at highway 1 and Kalium road east of Moose Jaw.
Here's a map showing highway or intersection improvement projects planned for 2019:
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said the highway ministry was already at work on these projects but "they accelerated it because of the public profile that happened with the Broncos crash."
The province had already promised back in December 2018 to install rumble strips, lights, signs and road markers at the site of the Humboldt Broncos bus collision, following an external review of the intersection.
Safety Improvement Plan gets $7 million
The second set of 2019 highway improvements announced Wednesday, which are budgeted at $7 million, will come from the similar-minded Safety Improvement Plan.
That program tries to reduce the number of highway collisions by installing site-specific improvements such as lighting, guardrails and rumble strips
Projects in 2019 include pedestrian crosswalk improvements on Highway 55 at Flying Dust First Nation and the construction of a guardrail on Highway 367 at Maymont Bridge.
The budget for the Safety Improvement Plan is not going up in 2019, as $7 million was allocated in 2018, according to the throne speech, but it's still more than was spent in the past, including $1.1 million back in 2007.
The government says it plans to improve about 1,000 kilometres of provincial roadway this year.