Minister says government will move to prepare 5-year highways capital programs
Manitoba Infrastructure’s No. 1 priority is to get the Lake Manitoba/Lake St. Martin outlet channels under construction, but putting trade on the road map is right behind it, Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said this week.
In a Manitoba Chamber of Commerce lunch webinar February 16, Schuler said that working on the province’s economic corridor is a top priority of his department’s infrastructure investment planning. That means ensuring Manitoba’s trade route to the United States and across the country is maintained. Within that project is improvements to Highways 1 and 75 but also working to clear uncontrolled access points on the Perimeter Highway and turning some of the high-traffic intersections into ramped access, rather than controlled by stop signs.
Right behind that would be building a grid of RTAC rated highways, so producers and manufacturers across Manitoba are within short distance of a road capable of carrying heavy loads and traffic volumes, Schuler said, and are assured of getting their supplies, products, goods and services to and from markets, unimpeded by seasonal weight restrictions and other barriers to efficient movement of shipments.
He said there is a draft RTAC grid sitting on his desk already. When it has been refined it will be presented to stakeholders and the public for feedback.
The minister repeated the importance of infrastructure annual budgets and extraordinary investment levels to pull Manitoba out of the economic slump brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic business shutdown. He said, as well, that his department is very tied into the provincial economic growth strategy, noting that Premier Brian Pallister walks to his office regularly through the week to talk about job creation and investment.
There is a general agreement that the department, which he referred to as the “department of hope,” can move to planning and releasing publicly an annual and five-year budget forecast, so Manitobans generally can see the infrastructure investment strategy and priorities, long-term.
“We should have an annual and 5-year program.” These projections, of course, would be subject to adjustment for annual priority setting and to shift to focus on extraordinary events, such as floods.
“We are working towards that right now,” Schuler said, adding industry and business can regard it as a five-year wish list.
The minister also noted that the government and Premier Brian Pallister are working diligently to push back on the preferential clauses the Saskatchewan government has written into tender and construction contracts. Pallister, he said, is working with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to apply pressure to Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.
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