Are drivers confused by Nipawin bridge construction zone restrictions, or do they just not care?

(Last Updated On: September 2, 2018)

On Saturday, I pulled up to the temporary traffic lights in the south bound lane that have been installed to regulate the alternating one lane traffic across the Nipawin bridge, as it undergoes construction work. 

As I had approached the light, I passed numerous signs, including one indicating their was a temporary traffic light ahead and another two clearly indicating the reduced speed limit of 30 km/h. 

The light had just turned red as I approached and I pulled up to the designated imaginary stop “line” in front of the traffic light. The crews appeared to have the day off and there was no activity, but the bridge was down to one lane and the lane open is a rough surface. 

As I stopped, a sedan following behind seemed to be stopping as well, but at the last minute, decided to pass me, driving through the red light. As I watched him drive by, he never even looked to see the reason I was stopped in the lane on a busy highway. Though there was no oncoming traffic, I don’t think he realized (or maybe didn’t care) that the 30 km/h speed limit meant he may not be across before he encountered north bound vehicles. 

All I could do was shake my head. Yes it’s a pain waiting when there is no oncoming traffic, but as some may testify from experience over at the old Nipawin bridge, that doesn’t always mean it is safe to go. 

The wait is long, and the next vehicle in line behind me, an SUV pulling a boat, began to pull out into the oncoming lane as if, he too, was going to pass me and also run the red light. By this time, though there was some oncoming traffic rounding the bend coming down the hill on the south side of the bridge. He pulled back in behind me, but after the traffic passed, he began to pull back out as if he was again considering passing me. The light turned green so if that was what he was going to do, it was no longer necessary. 

Now I am giving those people the benefit of the doubt. I am going to appease myself by assuming they were simply confused. Maybe, because the stop “line” was so close to the lights, neither could see the red traffic light because my pick up was blocking view of it from their position. 

I would have taken a picture or video to illustrate this but;

…if you’re caught using, viewing, holding or manipulating a cell phone while driving, you will be facing a hefty fine of $280.00. This includes the time stopped at a red light.

So, triple that $280 in a construction zone…

It doesn’t help that the work site lends itself to confusion. Earlier feedback from Nipawin News readers pointed out what they felt should be addressed such as;

  • Flag person warning signs placed where the flag person was standing, rather than in advance as we usually see in highway work zones
  • Extensive number of signs covered with black plastic creates added confusion for drivers (initially, some thought the construction had not begun)

Unclear construction speed zones adding to confusion

When crews first began to set up, the speed limit crossing the bridge was posted at 50 km/h. Once crews began the work on the bridge surface and traffic was reduced to alternating one lane, the speed zone approaching and crossing the bridge was lowered to 30 km/h due to the addition hazards. 

In addition to those problems, I also observed that, while the posted speed approaching the bridge was lowered to 50 then to 30 km/h, no signage was visible as the south bound traffic left the bridge and proceeded to drive up the hill headed into Nipawin. Following instructions from existing signs means maintaining 30 km/h all the way up the hill until one reaches the “end of construction” barrier. 

I’d like to assume that it is not the intent that the speed limit for the south bound traffic is set for 30 km/h halfway to Nipawin from the bridge, but what it results in is a mix of drivers, ranging from some ready to return to highway speeds as soon as they leave the single lane to those determined to follow the signage and instructions to the letter. After travelling at 100 km/h, the trip across the remainder of the bridge at 30 km/h, can be quite frustrating, even for the most patient driver. But if the posted speed limit is 30 km/h, even going 50 km/h once you leave the bridge could result in a massive $440 speeding ticket. Likewise, speeding up to even just 80 km/h as you climb the hill (if that 30 km/h zone is still in effect), bumps that fine up to $1,176 ! Remember, fines triple in construction zones, even when no workers are present.  

Group A fines cover 1-35 over, playground zones
Group B Fines cover 36-50+, Double the speed limit, Passing Emergency Vehicles/Tow Trucks or School Zone
Group C fines cover Construction Zones

Overall, no amount of blame overcomes that fact that drivers need to take full responsibility for their actions when they are behind the wheel. Paying attention to, and obeying, signs in construction zones, no matter how much we feel inconvenienced, is up to each driver. 

Construction not listed on Saskatchewan Highway Hotline map

Not really contributing to confusion, but surprising, given the efforts and advertising campaigns from our Government and SGI to encourage Saskatchewan residents to use the Highway Hotline app to check road conditions when we are travelling, is the absence of any information about the construction zone on the government funded app. 

As of September 2, 2018, the construction work on the Nipawin bridge on Hwy 55 is not indicated on the Highway Hotline map.

Do you have other concerns about the Nipawin bridge construction zone? 

As this is being published on a long weekend, I can not contact our government media relations department until Tuesday September 4th, 2018. In the meantime I would like input from Nipawin News readers, particularly if you have other concerns not already mentioned here. 


Post Author: Joanne Francis

Joanne Francis is the Editor and Journalist for Nipawin News