Last year, the South West Transportation Planning Council (SWTPC), a committee of municipal representatives across the Southwest, produced a new transportation plan titled “Grassroots Influence in Transportation Planning,” which is now available through the Publication Centre, formerly known as the Queen’s Printer. 

This year, among its usual duties, such as ranking the top ten highways in this region, the SWTPC is reviewing the impact of COVID-19 on transportation issues in the Southwest.

As the SWTPC has done over the last several years, the top 10 highways in the Southwest are prioritized by their value in meeting regional transportation needs. How are they rated and what criteria are used to determine where these highways rank? 

Economic needs such as grain and livestock transport, oil development, manufacturing and tourism are considered. 

Social needs: hospitals, schools and recreation are part of the rating process. 

And what purpose do the ratings serve?  Each year, the SWTPC reconsiders these factors and submits its rankings, as well as the thinking behind them, to the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure (MHI). 

MHI reviews the ratings from each of the 11 area transportation committees, using them as part of the decision-making process to determine where highway dollars are best spent across the province. These ratings are available to member municipalities, urban and rural, who are then encouraged to offer their own input into the following year’s rankings. 

As well, each member of the SWTPC is annually encouraged to present three transportation projects to MHI that may be considered for the future. Examples include a climbing lane south of Swift Current on Highway 4, improvements to exits and entrances off Highway 1 at Gull Lake, or the upgrade of Highway 43 from Highway 4 to Neville to a nine-month primary weight surface.

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One of the most important recommendations of this council is to find ways to get grain onto rail as quickly as possible to preserve the road surfaces in the Southwest.

Remarkably, the impact of COVID-19 has had little effect in the Southwest.

Grain movement is outstanding, partly because other commodities are being affected negatively by the pandemic.

Oil production has slowed, but tourism has not been as seriously impacted as was first feared. Of course, medical needs must still be met. Now that schools have reopened, buses are operating much as before. 

Recreation such as golf, camping, etc., continued unabated. For now, hockey travel will be reduced, but teams are gearing up for another season and hopefully will return to normal levels.  

The re-emergence of the virus this fall and winter may yet disrupt everyone’s lives and by extension, the normal use of the roads. 

It will be up to all of us in this province to maintain our stellar record in limiting the uptick of COVID cases and deaths.

Take proper precautions if going out and about, stay home as much as possible, especially if anyone is sick.

Stay safe. 

Due to the rapid increase in COVID numbers in Saskatchewan, the South West Transportation Planning Council (SWTPC) will be cancelling the proposed in-person AGM on November 27, 2020.

In its place, the team are in the process of putting together an online meeting on November 27, which can be accessed via “Microsoft Teams” or by telephone.

The relevant meeting information will be forwarded to all municipalities throughout the Southwest.

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