Mild winter shuts Manitoba’s winter road system early

OTTAWA — With the hauling season on Manitoba’s winter road system cut nearly in half, the province is looking to the feds to help ensure northern citizens get key supplies.

Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton was in Ottawa recently and urged the federal government and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) to cover the cost of shipping goods by air due to the closure of Manitoba’s winter road system.

“The winter road system is a vital link to deliver key supplies such as food and fuel to northern communities and this year that link is closing sooner than expected due to the weather,” said Ashton.

The winter road network in Manitoba was closed at midnight on March 15, due to warm weather and deteriorating ice conditions. The system closes when it becomes unsafe for travel because ground and ice conditions are no longer able to support all vehicles.

According to the province, the system serves over 30,000 Manitobans in more than 20 communities with no permanent roads. Approximately 2,500 shipments of staple items such as fuel, groceries, construction materials and general freight are transported each year by commercial trucks from the south to the north on this system.

The winter road system is constructed mostly over frozen lakes, rivers and muskeg. Approximately half of the winter road system opened by Feb. 1, while the remainder of the system opened Feb. 12. Normally the system is open for about eight weeks.

The provincial budget to open and maintain the winter road system this season was more than $9 million. More than 600 kilometres of the system has been moved off ice surfaces and onto land to further improve safety and reduce environmental risks.

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