Concerns looming over twinning of Trans-Canada for Falcon Lake, Man. business owner, resident – Winnipeg | Globalnews.ca
A Falcon Lake, Man. business owner and resident is voicing concerns over the province’s plans to twin the Trans-Canada Highway from Falcon Lake to the Ontario border.
The province announced this year it plans to move forward with the process of twinning the 17-kilometre stretch of highway. The area is a narrow, two-lane highway that has seen serious and fatal collisions over the years, including a 2019 collision that took the lives of a father and son from Dryden, Ont.
Devin and Kendra Imrie have owned and operated Falcon Beach Ranch since 2015, a year-round tourism business that offers cabin rentals, horseback riding and sleigh rides in Whiteshell Provincial Park.
“We’re second-generation owners and it’s been in our family since 1978 and it originally began in 1963, so we’ve been in continuous operation since then,” Devin Imrie told Global News.
It’s also where their family home is situated. The Trans-Canada Highway is about 200 metres from their front doorstep.
“We have a nice tree buffer between us and the highway, which helps mitigate noise and that type of thing, but it’s on our doorstep for sure,” Devin said.
The Imries say while they understand and agree with the need to twin the highway due to serious safety concerns, they also have concerns over it impacting their home and livelihood.
“At best, we’d be looking at significant to short term disruption to our business, and at worst, it could be really damaging, depending on what route is chosen and how the project is carried out,” Devin said.
“It’s always in the back of our minds that it’s going to happen someday, and I think it’s legitimate that the highway does get twinned, but it does affect our livelihood with the highway being right next door to us, and our way of life as well,” Kendra said.
The community’s local golf course, school, and community club are located on the south side of the highway, across from the ranch. Several cabins and homes are also close to a narrow passage between Barren Lake and Falcon Lake that the Trans-Canada runs through.
The Imries say they’ve also heard concerns from the local business community about the possibility of the highway being rerouted around the area, and potentially taking traffic away from the businesses in Falcon and West Hawk Lake.
“Our worry is that an engineer picks the route sitting at their desk and has never been out to talk to businesses in the area,” Devin said.
“We live here year-round and kind of rely on the natural beauty in the area for our livelihood, so we want to be involved in terms of planning the route for sure.”
The Imries say other than a brief discussion with their local MLA, they have yet to have any contact from the province on the matter.
In an emailed statement to Global News, the province says it’s currently evaluating design proposals from contractors for the twinning phase of the highway. A spokesperson said two studies will be conducted after the contract is awarded, including a functional design study and a conceptual design study, that is expected to take two years.
Both studies will look at the design of the highway and optimal route alignment and will include engagement with stakeholders.
“The department, working with the service provider, will develop a set of evaluation criteria to ensure that feedback from all stakeholders and Indigenous Rights Holders, including directly affected land owners and public interests, are reflected,” the statement read.
“As the project is still in the conceptual design study evaluation phase project components, such as when clearing and construction work will be taking place, are still to be determined. Works will not begin until public engagement for both studies have been completed. Engagements provide information about the need for the project, gather feedback and concerns to consider during the design of alternatives, and provide information about the final evaluation of the design alternatives.
“The decision on the preferred design alternative will be informed by the information gathered from stakeholders and Indigenous Rights Holders.”
The province also says road alignment work is currently underway at the Manitoba-Ontario border, including tree clearing in the area. The province says this phase of the project will continue throughout the summer and is expected to be complete by summer 2024.
Interim renewal work is also currently underway on three bridges at Falcon and West Hawk Lake. Extensive work towards twinning the highway on the Ontario side of the border is already underway.
“We just really hope that we’re involved in the early planning stages right off the hop so that we have some input,” Kendra said.
“Or even just to let the planners know our usage area where we use trails, because a lot of them may not be necessarily be on maps because they’re not necessarily planned out or mapped out by the government. So we really would like to have someone talk to us in advance, just to let them know our concerns and show them where we use this area.”
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