ecent weather events have required a tremendous amount of work to maintain road conditions in many rural areas. Despite it all, the RM of Portage la Prairie has been maintaining a vast majority of them for use.
Reeve Kam Blight says it's undoubtedly been a challenging 2022 up to this point.
"Our roads were just starting to get into some decent shape where we could start working with them," explains Blight. "With the winter thaw and then we were hit with that Colorado low which dumped a lot of snow, ultimately, when it melted, most of it soaked into our roads, softening them right up. The Public Works Department worked very hard to try and get out there and reshape the roads as best they possibly could in the short timeframe that they had."
He says the rain pounded the road conditions, and it took some time for their public works department to reconvene their work after the last bout of downfall.
"We were working on the roads this past Tuesday, and and they've done a phenomenal job working with these roads in any capacity that they can," continues Blight. "There are a lot of challenges when the roads are on the softer side, and we know that there's another rain event potentially coming this week. So, we can't be too aggressive with blading the roads in case it does rain a large amount. Otherwise, they will be very slippery and, quite frankly, not a pleasure to drive on."
Blight notes strategy is required for the Public Works Department to do what they can and work around rain events, to ensure these roads are in as safe a condition as possible.
"All our roads were passable as of Wednesday -- 100 per cent -- the roads that we maintain on a year-round basis -- not our dirt roads, obviously," adds Blight. "But our roads certainly are travelable. Ultimately, you have to drive to the conditions in some cases, just like you would have to at different parts of any normal year. Council is fully confident in the roads that they can be currently driven on by any type of vehicle. There are just some concerns that the roads are not being utilized by the School Division, and that's impacting our residents and municipality in a negative way."
He says many calls and concerns have been submitted to the RM councilors and himself, upset that the school buses are not travelling the rural routes because they have been deemed untravellable.
"That is not the case," stresses Blight. "These roads are -- we feel, and it's in the public works' opinion and the council's opinion -- that these roads are travelable and can be utilized by all vehicles. Once again, we just encourage everyone to make sure that they drive to the conditions and drive accordingly. It's having a negative impact on our municipality. We know that not being able to get this sort of pickup and service from the school division for the children is going to be a strain and have a negative impact to some individuals. We are concerned about the negative mindset that is some may not want to be living out in the rural because of the buses not running the rural routes, so we're concerned about the impacts it's going to have on our municipality."
Blight explains they're in talks with the school division to encourage them that these roads can be utilized.
"But ultimately it is their decision on whether the buses are running or not on the gravel roads, and not the RM's," continues Blight. "It's the RM's position that these roads are in a condition that they can be utilized for and driven on by the school buses. We are definitely concerned about this, as it's having a real negative impact on our municipality and very difficult for a lot of our residents who are having to, in some cases, coordinate drop offs and pickups at different times and locations and some are having to drive their kids to school and pick them up. This impacts their jobs, and so on."
All the while, he says, they're keeping the roads at this usable state for all residents.
"I think it's important to clarify some communication that has been circulating around to the municipality," adds Blight. "It was stated that the RM of Portage la Prairie Public Works Department has stated that they did not want large vehicles and buses traveling on our roads for this week, or all the way to even next Wednesday. That is not the case whatsoever. That was not communication that came from our department. We're not sure where the misunderstanding or the miscommunication came from. However, we have never made that statement, and we feel that our roads are passable and usable. Having said that, you do have to drive according to the conditions."
Blight notes that there were earlier issues with a light amount of water running over roads, however, every property remained accessible by alternate routes.
He acknowledges there are some roads that are better than others.
"We're not denying that the roads are less than ideal right now," adds Blight. "It's been an extreme challenge and there's only so much we can do with these roads in the condition that they're in, especially when there's potential for another large amount of rain to come this weekend. So, we need to see what happens this weekend before we get aggressive with the roads and start shaping them back up."
The RM or Portage la Prairie released this notice on Thursday, April 28, 2022:
PRESS RELEASE, RM OF PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE
Recent weather events and forecasted events have the Public Works Department extremely busy maintaining municipal roads to keep them open. While the roads were not in ideal shape on Monday, April 25, conditions improved significantly by the end of that day. Since Tuesday April 26, municipal roads have been passable, noting that the Pine Creek and Prairie Rose School Divisions found them sufficient and continue to use them for travel with their school buses. Despite the RM’s advisement to the Portage School Division, on April 24 and thereafter, that the roads are passable, the Portage School Division chose not to run their buses on their full routes. The RM assures everyone that the roads are acceptable for use by all transport types, including school buses, if care and control is according to the conditions.
Staff and contractors are placing more gravel in primary locations as quickly as possible and intend to work through the weekend if necessary to ensure no disruption in travel routes for any and everyone using the municipality’s roads.
If you notice any roads with overland flooding, please call 204-857-4439 (to leave a message), or call your Ward Councillor, or submit a Service Tracker request at http://rmofportage.ca/p/service-request.