Neepawa highway could use the Cranbrook solution


By Ken Waddell

The Neepawa Banner

Since 2000, Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation (MIT) has been promising a solution to traffic congestion on Highway 16 through Neepawa. The proposed solution involves a widened four lane highway, a number of rear access roads and a widening of the roadbed which would eliminate the trees.

In 2002, the proposal was brought forward with an estimated cost of $16 million. Titled the Highway 16 Functional Design, it was brought to two open houses in the community and adopted by the Town of Neepawa council in 2004. It was adopted into the Neepawa Development Plan, a document that governs long term planning for the community.

Repeated meetings with businesses and community stakeholders have shown there are several problems with the Functional Design:

- The cost has risen to $25 million

- The town of Neepawa doesn’t have the $2 million it will cost to redo the water and sewer under Hwy. 16

- The design calls for the re- moval of all the stately elm trees from the boulevard. •Businesses along High- way. 16 object strongly to the Functional Design’s requirement for a centre median and there being no left hand turns except at intersections.

Snow clearing will be more costly due to the medians.

In the 14 years since the design was dreamed up, the only work that has been done by MIT is some land acquisition and the installation of the much needed traffic lights at the junction of Highway 16 and Highway 5 North.

The two photos shown on page 2 of this week's edition of the Neepawa Banner clearly show that a cheaper solution is available. It’s a solution that has been brought forward by a number of people on several occasions but always rejected by MIT. It’s a centre turning lane system and the solution is one used extensively in other places across Canada and the United States. On a recent visit to Cranbrook, B.C., this writer saw the centre turning lane solution in action in a very similar setting to Neepawa. Van Horne Avenue goes right through Cranbrook, the same way as Hwy. 16 goes through Neepawa. There’s lots of commercial development like motels, service stations and restaurants on both sides. There are no service roads and the centre turning lane system is used. In fact, in Cranbrook, the left-hand turns are across two lanes of oncoming traffic, not just one as it would be in Neepawa. The advantages of the Cranbrook system are obvious:

The cost would be a repaving job and painting lines, not $25 million.

The Town of Neepawa would not have to replace the water and sewer lines. •The much loved trees would stay and could be replaced as needed.

Businesses along Highway 16 would not lose the left hand turn traffic to their business locations.

The Town of Neepawa council continues to approve the functional design in spite of the fact that in addition to the advantages of the Cranbrook solution, neither MIT nor the Town of Neepawa has the money to implement the more expencive design.

The Cranbrook solution is an obvious one at a much lower cost.