Province cutting snow removal budget 0
The province has cut a snow-clearing shift, a decision truckers and other motorists fear could put their safety and bottom lines at risk.
Budget cuts have eliminated an 11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. plowing shift that covers the Trans Canada, Perimeter, 75, 59, 16, 6, and 10 highways, as well as Inkster Boulevard, delaying the start of plowing to 4 a.m. or later.
Shannon Neff, media liaison with the Portage RCMP, said that despite the budget cuts to snow-clearing services, nothing has changed from a safety standpoint as motorists still need to pay attention to road conditions before the traffic hits.
"It's the responsibility of everyone of the road to keep everyone else safe," said Neff. "Whether you're out travelling regardless of the time of day, night or weather conditions, it's something that everybody needs to keep in mind and check weather conditions. It's important to make sure your vehicle is prepared for weather and road conditions and to take (those factors) into consideration before you travel."
Earlier this week, the provincial government issued a new highway map that offers more information for accessing road information via 511 and Twitter. What's more, the province stressed plows will still operate overnight when a storm hits.
However, several organizations are speaking out against the move, questioning the economic impact in addition to the safety concerns.
Terry Shaw, general manager of the Manitoba Trucking Association, said trucking is a 24/7 business that relies on safe, accessible highways.
“The obvious concern is safety but there’s also a concern in regards to economic efficiency,” said Shaw.
Manitoba is located at the crux of major national trade routes and weather delays could wreak havoc across the country, he said.
Shaw fears cuts won’t bode well for inter-city treks, which often occur between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
CAA Manitoba spokeswoman Liz Peters worries the cuts could also endanger commuters.
“We know how treacherous Manitoba highways can be ... less plowing can mean less safety,” said Peters.
Ron Weatherburn, executive director of maintenance at Manitoba Transportation, said the move will save about $2 million and require 12 fewer seasonal workers this winter.
“When it comes to budgets, we need to be fiscally responsible, especially in this economic time,” said Weatherburn.
But Manitoba Progressive Conservatives say the cuts put drivers at risk.
“They’re cutting out a part of their budget and a portion that relates to public safety,” said Mavis Taillieu, the party’s transportation critic.
“I can’t see this being a money-saving opportunity that’s worth the risk,” agreed Winnipeg driver Dean Koshelanyk.
-with files from the QMI Agency
More to come...