REGINA, Sask. - Saskatchewan highways will get a boost, thanks to cash pumped into the Transportation Partnership Program (TPP) fund by the province's carriers.Since its inception in 1997, the program...
REGINA, Sask. – Saskatchewan highways will get a boost, thanks to cash pumped into the Transportation Partnership Program (TPP) fund by the province’s carriers.
Since its inception in 1997, the program has raised about $4 million. For the first time ever, the money will be available to be reinvested into much ailing roads.
Of the $4 million raised through the program, there is now $2.6 million in uncommitted funds earmarked for transportation. An advisory committee, consisting of representatives from the Saskatchewan Trucking Association (STA), Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce and the Consulting Engineers of Saskatchewan, has agreed on how to spend the money, and they are now awaiting approval from Highways and Transportation Minister Pat Atkinson.
Some of the suggestions the committee has made include completing work on Hwy. 16, improving roadways and intersections and developing an education program aimed at improving the industry’s image.
“We have a tentative program that’s been agreed upon by the advisory committee and they have made a recommendation to the minister,” says George Stamatinos, executive director of the Partnership Programs and Services Branch of Saskatchewan Highways and Transportation. An announcement on how the uncommitted funds will be spent is expected this month.
TPP provides trucking companies with certain privileges such as increased weight and size allowances. In turn, those companies must contribute a portion of their savings to the fund.
“If the infrastructure damage resulting from their privilege to haul more weight is more than the savings, then we wouldn’t enter into an agreement obviously,” says Stamatinos. “But if there is some residual, and typically there is some significant residual, then half goes to the company and half goes to the TPPF.”
The program is not without its critics, however, and the STA is one of those unhappy with how the project operates.
“The STA has been involved with Highways and Transportation in the distribution of the funds … we are appreciative of that and we agree with that process,” says STA general manager Jim Friesen. “However, philosophically, we do not agree with the partnership program.”
Friesen says money raised through the fund should go directly back into the industry, and that’s not always the case. The STA also disagrees with the way fees are collected.
“The method of collection in some cases is very onerous on the people involved,” says Friesen. “They’re collected on a per-kilometre basis and it’s quite difficult to administrate.”
In addition, the TPP failed to raise the $20 million that organizers touted when it was launched.
Stamatinos says that other sources of revenue – raised through projects such as manufacturing and grain transportation efficiencies – failed to work out, resulting in the shortfall.
“Back then the thought was that if all of those (other projects) came together properly, we would be in that $20 million range but it never materialized,” says Stamatinos. “But it’s $4 million that we didn’t have before. It’s $4 million that still gets put into roads that we wouldn’t have.”
He adds that many of the roads that benefited from the fund would otherwise have been overlooked.
According to the committee, this makes the program a win-win situation for everyone involved. All 26 companies that participate in the program can suggest how they would like to see the money spent.
“The way the program works, partners have the option of identifying where their portion that goes back to the fund is spent,” explains Stamatinos. “Typically, they like to see that money put into the particular route they use. But for partners that travel the whole system, they’re quite happy to allow for a process that would identify good projects across the whole system where that money could be spent.” n