Liewicki Leaks: Ministry of Highways must step up

Nathan Liewicki
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I haven’t expressed admiration for school buses since I stopped riding them to school in Grade 7.

This July 24 photo shows a sizeable inland lake having formed in an area about 10 kilometres east of Tuxford. It has swallowed a section of Highway 202, as well as a grid road, making commuting a challenge.

‘Cheese wagons’ as we used to call them — and maybe they’re still called that by todays’ generation of students — were vehicles I dreaded hopping on in my early teenage years. It was not because I was forced to sit near the front (I sat near the back in Grade 7), but because a girl continually picked on me.

In today’s vernacular, we’d call that bullying. Thirteen-plus years after I’d had enough of her teasing me and told my parents I wanted to ride the city bus, I have not often thought about school buses.

But since late July, thoughts about school buses have flooded my mind. In particular, one Prairie South School Division (PSSD) bus route that picks up and drops off three children at a rural outpost about 10 kilometres east of Tuxford — a location that’s been underwater since June.

I’ve written two previous stories (July 24 and Aug. 12) pertaining to the flooding situation affecting traffic on Highway 202 and the unmarked north-south grid road that bisects the provincial highway. To this point, however, both the RM of Moose Jaw and the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure (MHI) have made very little headway on improving the condition of this intersection.

To be honest, I don’t know which political faction should be responsible for pushing the envelope further. That being said, it would appear as though the ministry is the side more at fault.

I understand that there are other busier highways in Saskatchewan that needed upgrades quicker than Highway 202, most of them as a result of torrential rains that whipped southeastern areas of the province earlier this summer.

The residents I’ve spoken with, including a mother of one of the affected children, also understand this, but they’re beyond frustrated — all of them. So, with school set to begin next week I contacted PSSD.

After my message was passed to the transportation department, Darby Briggs, communications co-ordinator for PSSD, told me that transportation manager Clarke Baker had been aware of the bus situation involving these children since June.

I was told this was not a big issue, and that thanks to the school bus driver, who had helped make alternative transportation arrangements with the children’s parents, there was a plan in place.

Although I’m glad to hear there is a plan in place so that a school bus doesn’t have to drive the temporary road through a nearby field, I feel the MHI, as well as the RM, need to take this situation more seriously than they currently are.

These parents shouldn’t have to transport their kids to and from a temporary location just so they can be picked up and dropped off by a ‘cheese wagon.’ That’s the responsibility of prairie south. This particular situation is not, however, the division’s fault.

The HMI needs to step up their efforts to bring this one-kilometre stretch of Highway 202 — back to the way it was — drivable, even for school buses.

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks.

Organizations: Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure

Geographic location: Tuxford, Saskatchewan

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