Construction closing Neeb Road for six weeks

Heavy equipment has been reshaping the Neeb road for the past couple of weeks. As of last Friday, the road was closed to heavy haul traffic. Despite the closure, light traffic may have access until work on the culvert begins. Kowal Construction was awarded the 1.6 million contract at the RM of Meadow Lake’s regular meeting held Sept. 14. Kowal is currently completing projects both in Beauval and Frenchman’s Butte and as those finish, more equipment and crew will move to the Neeb location.

Alternative routes needed

By Rhonda Cooper

Truckers and regular travellers along designated heavy haul route Highway 698, south of Neeb, will have to adjust their driving patterns for the next six weeks as construction of a new speed curve takes shape.

Kowal Construction has been on site for a couple of weeks and reached the point in construction on Oct. 21 where it needed to shut down the road. Approximately 1.5 km of road will be altered, as three existing road corners will be replaced by a speed curve and the 30-year-old culvert will be upgraded.

“It is one of the major travel corridors,” said Al Balisky, general manager of Mistik Management Ltd. of Meadow Lake. “It affects both the hardwood and softwood sides of the business.”

Balisky said the company was aware of the impending closure but noted the timing of the project is poor.

“It is going into our busy season,” he said. “If we could have had input into the timing we wouldn’t have chosen now.

“It won’t change the road bed, but it will be a better crossing structure,” Balisky noted. “This is just a bump in the road.”

The longer routes will add costs to Mistik’s books.

For Meadow Lake OSB mill, the closure will put a little strain on its operations, said woodlands manager Travis Kiel.

“The closure and rerouting the trucks may add some extra costs,” he said. “There are no real good (road) alternatives so we moved loggers around to the other side of the culvert.

“We had heard it was coming but we only had two days notice,” said Kiel. “We wish we’d had more time to prepare.”

Although, the amount of loads OSB takes from the area varies from year to year, Kiel estimated that between 4,000 and 6,000 loads are hauled from the Neeb area. The closure is scheduled for six weeks but OSB hopes it will be reopened in less time

Iris Crouch, who resides near the construction zone approximately 53 km southeast of Meadow Lake, indicated the road handles a high volume of traffic.

“A lot of vehicles travel through to Big River and Chitek Lake. There are a number of lakes over there and people with campers and folks with quads take that road,” she said. “Also, farmers haul cattle to the auction mart in Spiritwood.”

The new construction crosses Crouch’s land and negotiations between the family and the RM have taken place.

“Any time you have money put into infrastructure is a good thing,” said Crouch. “It will have a positive impact in the long run.”

Butch Cowan of Cowan Bros. Transport concurs, noting the road improvements will make for better hauling. The company

works steadily in that area for three to four months annually using upwards of 20-30 trucks. Cowan, who has run trucks in that area since the 1970s when it was just a bush trail, has weathered numerous road changes.

“It used to be every quarter section you came to there was a 90 degree turn,” he said.

Cowan explained that the current 90 degree corner at the intersection is a problem for the trucks, especially in the winter when ice causes the vehicles to slide off the road.

“In reality, it’s a good thing and it will make the road better for everyone,” he said.

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