NDP says documents show Regina Bypass Partners lacked timely response to Balgonie overpass jam

NDP says documents show Regina Bypass Partners lacked timely response to Balgonie overpass jam
Internal documents highlight govt concern over lack of action after truck stuck on bypass
Saskatchewan's official opposition is raising concerns about the responsiveness of a P3 partner when it comes to solving a problem with the Balgonie overpass.

According to 2017 documents provided by the Sask. NDP, highway officials discussed the issue after reports arose of a semi truck becoming stuck at Highway 46 and 365 at the Balgonie overpass, part of the multi-million dollar Regina Bypass project.

An email  from September 2017 states the first call was made to RBDB (Regina Bypass Design Builders) at around 6:40 p.m., with the problem still left unresolved 12 hours later.

"Those who are responsible for responding to these types of events must be available," a highway official wrote to an email addressed to other officials.

"I have had to personally [attend] to operations issues in the middle of the night to deal with calls such as debris on the road," it went on to say .

Another email states: "We discussed this at our informal meeting with RBP/RBDB this morning. From what I can tell the person who was called failed to act on the call."

NDP Cathy Sproule called the situation "unacceptable" and said it puts residents' safety at risk.

"We wouldn't want anybody else using that roadway if there was a problem with safety so we just wanted to ensure everything was taken care of before we allowed traffic back on there."

Asked specifically about the 12 hours wait to resolve the issue, Carr said: "When it's an issue of safety I think time doesn't matter, you make sure things are safe for people to get back on the roadway."

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Despite paying a private interest to build and maintain the Regina bypass, government officials responded to Balgonies overpass issues.

Despite paying a private interest to build and maintain the Regina bypass infrastructure, it was government officials who responded to issues related to an overpass near Balgonie earlier this year.

In September, according to documents obtained by the NDP, a truck got stuck on one of the overpass roundabouts that connect Highway 46 and the Trans-Canada.

This led to other trucks and drivers flowing into the town of Balgonie, to which direct access to the Trans-Canada is typically blocked off. But truck drivers, according to the documents, removed barriers between the Trans-Canada and Balgonie streets so they could return to the highway. But the problem, according to the NDP, persisted for 12 hours.

Concerns have been raised that the new Regina Bypass roundabouts are too small for large trucks and farm equipment.

In an email referencing the September incident, a Ministry of Highways official wrote, “From what I can tell the person who was called failed to act on the call.”

He wrote he had asked for a meeting to discuss it and the Regina Bypass team and the Regina Bypass Design Build Team, made up of private companies, were “investigating the details.”

Minister of Highways Lori Carr said any additional costs related to the incident were “all built right into the contract,” for the $1.88-billion project, which includes building and maintaining 40 kilometres of road on flat prairie.

Carr said the issue with the roundabout has “been fixed” and any costs incurred by Highways officials is “the course of doing business,” in part because overtime costs are built into the highways budget.

The province said it was out-of-scope employees who responded to this incident and no overtime was paid..

NDP MLA Cathy Sproule said, “If you look into the amount of hours that went into government trying to resolve a problem that should have just been resolved by the bypass partners, it has cost taxpayers plenty already.”

In the past, the Saskatchewan Party government has said the controversial bypass project was “studied to death,” but Sproule suggested the length of time it took to respond to the September incident “isn’t acceptable.”

“It matters to the public because this is putting people at risk and for this government to talk about all the safety protections that they’re intending to achieve, this goes directly contrary to those aspirations,” she said, adding if the project was being built by the ministry rather than private contractors, it would have been responded to “immediately.”

She asserted the province “got the brush off” from the bypass builders when the issue came up.

“If they don’t care, then I think Saskatchewan people have a real problem when it comes to using the bypass,” she said.