Highway 8 named the worst in Saskatchewan

Highway 9 also in the top 10

May 13, 2024, 10:40 am
Ryan Kiedrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Patching is being done on Highway 8, which is slated to be repaired completely by 2025.

Highway 8 in southeast Saskatchewan has been named the worst highway in Saskatchewan because of the potholes, and Highway 9 north of Whitewood is also in the top 10, placing eighth for poor road maintenance.

“We have 250,000 kilometres of roads. That’s the highest length of road surface compared to any other province,” said Angel Blair, Senior Communications Specialist with CAA Saskatchewan. “The big thing with Saskatchewan is because we’re landlocked, these roads are often really vital roads used for business or travel. When they deteriorate, it’s the road users and the towns, communities, and cities that pay the price.”

All through the month of April, road users across the province nominated and voted on what they felt were the worst roads in Saskatchewan, with Blair being ‘roving reporter’ - interviewing road users in Eston, Hudson Bay, Whitewood, Redvers and Pilot Butte.

“It was it was really interesting talking to them, and we love doing it. We got some really great comments and there are serious safety concerns,” Blair said. “The comments we’ve heard is, if you can’t haul your camper down to the local park, that’s a problem. It’s a safety concern. Not only does it wreck your vehicle, cause damage and cost you money, but it’s also now affecting the area’s tourism—that’s money coming out of the community. That’s really important for a lot of communities.”

Blair noted receiving thousands of votes during the 20-day nomination period.

“You don’t necessarily want to be number one on the worst roads list, but if you are in our top 10, the good news is the top 10 do get a lot of publicity,” she explained. “What we do with the winners—our top 10—is we share it with stakeholders—that’s government and business leaders. We hope that sparks conversation; we hope that sparks action.”

The attention drawn to terrible roads hopefully results in a positive outcome, as Blair remarked, “if a road gets fixed, that means that road is a winner.”

Saskatchewan Highways Minister Lori Carr told the World-Spectator in March that work will be completed this summer of resurfacing the mine road from Rocanville to the Nutrien Rocanville mine site, a large patching program will take place on Highway 8 between Moosomin and Rocanville, and work will begin this year on design for resurfacing the section between Moosomin and Rocanville.

The World-Spectator spoke with Carr following a meeting she had with Moosomin MLA Steven Bonk, RM of Moosomin Reeve David Moffatt ant RM of Rocanville Reeve Melissa Ruhland to discuss the state of the highway.

“I think the meeting was really respectful,” she said. “The community just put forward the issues that they see with the road and then we had the opportunity to respond with what work is coming and what’s taking place on there right now.

“They brought up the condition of the road, the amount of traffic that it has, the economic corridor that it is to the mine—just all of the things that make that road so important to all of the communities around there.”

Carr told the World-Spectator she understands the local concerns. “Their concerns are all very valid and I completely understand where they’re coming from,” she said.

“The on-road construction is expected to begin in 2024, so this summer. There will be a major improvement on Highway 8 northeast of Rocanville to the Nutrien potash mine. This is a 14.6 km long project which is estimated to cost approximately $15.1 million. That’s an investment that the Government of Saskatchewan is making.

“Then of course there’s the other section of road that goes all the way back into Moosomin and right now the speed limit has been reduced to 80 km/hr because there are some sections that are in very rough condition.”

She said design work on resurfacing the Moosomin to Rocanville section will begin soon.

“The design work will be started this year for the remainder of the section of that road that comes back down to Moosomin,” she said.

A little further west is Highway 9 - gaining notoriety for ‘repeat offender’ status on the CAA’s top 10 list. What makes this stretch of highway connecting Whitewood with points north such as Esterhazy so hazardous is a particular portion through the Qu’Appelle Valley.

“I know there’s people that are literally bypassing the Number 9 and using the 47 and other ways to get by this area because they just refuse to travel on the 9,” said Grant Forster, Mayor of Esterhazy. “Anything that makes it easier for us to get people here is definitely something that is a good thing for us.”

Losing travellers to poor road conditions has a definite economic impact, but Forster also pointed to those with no other option but to take the Number 9.

“Not just on the economic side, but for people that have to travel to Regina for medical­—I know my daughter’s going in on Thursday and she’s dreading the trip,” he said.

The provincial government announced in their recent March budget some $741 million being spent over the next fiscal year ($404 million of that being capital projects) on 1,100 km of highways across the province - promising 15 km south of the valley on Highway 9 as part of repaving efforts.

“It needs to be done. That was good news with the budget when they announced that they were going to be repaving that section. It’s awful,” Forster said.

When contacted for comment, the Ministry of Highways spoke to concerns on both highways, providing a clearer picture of what the maintenance process will look like in coming months.

For Highway 8, ongoing maintenance work will be happening subject to weather and seasonal conditions.

“The Ministry of Highways continues working on a design for the reconstruction of Highway 8 between Moosomin and Rocanville,” said a ministry spokesperson. “This project has been identified as a priority and is part of the ministry’s five-year capital plan. No firm costs are available for a reconstruction project of Highway 8 between Moosomin and Rocanville, as design options are being evaluated.”

Construction is expected to begin this year from Rocanville to the Nutrien Potash Mine, which will see around $15.1 million devoted to the 14.6 km stretch, anticipated to be complete before year end.

The highway has seen more than a few dollars spend over the years with $75,000 invested in routine maintenance last year in the Moosomin area, and $540,000 in government dollars over the past five years.

As for Highway 9, there will be $11 million spent between two projects near Whitewood.

“Highway 9 south of Whitewood will see 15 km of road resurfacing, totalling $3.1 million, and will also include safety improvements at the Richardson Pioneer Access point/road,” the Ministry said. “More than $7.9 million is allocated to repave almost 19 km of Highway 9 north of Whitewood.”

Both projects are set to begin this season with end dates again subject to weather.