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New Perimeter Interchange to Improve Traffic Flow to Southeast

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Perimeter Interchange Crop
Government MLAs announce construction of new interchange at St. Mary's Road/South Perimeter. Sara Beth Dacombe.

Commuters, take note: on Monday, June 29, the Province of Manitoba announced the construction of an interchange at the intersection of St. Mary’s Road and the South Perimeter Highway.

“The safety of the South Perimeter Highway has been a priority of our government, and these improvements will build on the measures we’ve taken over the past few years to create a safer and more efficient roadway for the approximately 30,000 vehicles that use it daily,” said MLA Ron Schuler, Minister of Infrastructure as well as the representative for Springfield-Ritchot. “With residential, commercial, and industrial growth in south Winnipeg and communities south of the city, it is time to build the South Perimeter Highway to a freeway standard.”

Janice Morley-Lecomte, MLA for Seine River, was present to introduce Schuler and help make the announcement along with Audrey Gordon, MLA for Southdale; Andrew Smith, MLA for Lagimodiere; and Jon Reyes, MLA for Waverley.

Schuler said the South Perimeter is intended to become a “limited access corridor.” So far, 24 mud or gravel roads that meet or cross the Perimeter have been removed. Decreasing these intersections improves safety. However, having fewer access points to the highway also means increasing the amount of traffic funneling onto major roads.

Schuler noted that the Perimeter/St. Mary’s intersection has a high rate of vehicle collisions and sees upwards of 50,000 vehicles at peak use.

It is unclear how many of those vehicles are from bedroom communities south of Winnipeg, but the local mayors reacted with enthusiasm to the announcement.

The communities of Ritchot, especially St. Adolphe, will feel the impact. Ritchot Mayor Chris Ewen, who also serves as a board member for the Maple Grove Rugby Park, located to the immediate northwest of the intersection, is extremely familiar with the dangers of the area and its high-volume traffic.

“We get a lot of commuters coming that way and it’s a beautiful drive. It’s a great entrance to Ritchot,” says Ewen. “But at Maple Grove Rugby Park, that’s a death trap going in and out. For the five to six o’clock rush hour, it’s almost impossible to get on and off St. Mary’s… I’m so glad to see that developed into something safer for commuters or even tourists coming into Ritchot, to our corn maze in St. Adolphe, etc.”

Mayor Myron Dyck of Niverville is similarly enthusiastic.

“I knew the province was looking at the South Perimeter when they were doing their studies,” says Dyck. “I knew that for the residents of Niverville and our greater area, it has been a dangerous intersection with many accidents, so I’m glad to see it happening.”

Dyck acknowledged the safety benefit, as well as the new construction jobs likely to come to local businesses and individuals.

“I’m not quite sure how many people in our community will receive work from it, once they send out the RFPs, but investment in infrastructure is always appreciated,” Dyck adds. “It’s a good thing to see development like this in south Winnipeg, which affects the surrounding areas and will have come with a benefit Niverville will feel.”

That said, with a project of this scale, construction is bound to last a long time and impact traffic for years to come. In the meantime, commuters will have to deal with new hazards, like detours and road closures.

“I think Ritchot is fortunate enough to have residents who know how to be flexible with their travel routes,” says Mayor Ewen. “We’re along the floodway and we see the Red River rise annually and have circumstances where we do need to reroute individuals frequently. Our residents know there is always an alternate route and it’s just a quick turnaround to the 75 or 59 to get to us. I hope it doesn’t interfere with the long-term positive effects that it’s going to have in the short-term. It’s too early to see how difficult those re-routes will be, if any.”

Minister Schuler says that traffic volume from communities close to the Perimeter from all across southern Manitoba was taken into account when the province conducted the functional review surrounding the South Perimeter. The review also considered the flow of vehicles travelling interprovincially that essentially just need to get around the city.

“As part of the Trans-Canada Highway, the South Perimeter Highway is one of Manitoba’s most important trade corridors and plays a strategic role as it also connects with PTH 75, our major route to the United States,” said Schuler. “A new interchange will improve reliability and efficiency of Canada’s international and interprovincial trade flows and support the growth of our economy.

In 2018, the province developed a South Perimeter Highway Safety Plan, which included closing some uncontrolled access points and median openings. It also launched a long-term South Perimeter Highway design study to eliminate all at-grade crossings from the Trans-Canada Highway West interchange at Portage Avenue to the Trans-Canada Highway East interchange at Fermor Avenue, replacing them with interchanges and overpasses.

Construction is expected to begin in 2021, to be completed by 2023 following a design-build model. The exact layout of the interchange is not yet known and the budget has not yet been set, as the province awaits tenders from construction companies.

Funding for the overpass is part of the $500-million Manitoba Restart Program, an economic stimulus package to help restart Manitoba’s economy and ramp up construction in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the stimulus package, the province has set aside $65 million for major highway projects like this one.

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