Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hwy. 75 reopens, truckers happy

-- Flood detour cost the industry millions -- Dry spell over for Morris shop owners

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A trucking industry official was rejoicing Monday at news that Highway 75 -- the main route between Winnipeg and the United States -- was set to reopen at 6 a.m. today.

"Beautiful!" Manitoba Trucking Association president Tom Payne Jr. said in an interview. "It's going to be a happy day for everybody."

The provincial government announced Sunday that flood waters have receded enough to allow the reopening of the highway, which had been closed at Morris for the past month. It said the ring dike closings at Morris and St. Jean Baptiste also would be removed in the next two or three days.

Morris Mayor Gavin van der Linde said their ring dike was to be opened at the same time as the highway, which will be a huge relief for businesses that rely heavily on out-of-town travellers.

During the time Highway 75 was closed, trucks and other vehicles that normally travel that route had to take a 100-kilometre detour west via Highway 3 to get around the closed stretch of highway.

The trucking association estimates about 1,000 trucks a day travel through the Canada-U.S. border crossing at Emerson and that the detour cost Manitoba's trucking industry about $1.5 million a week in added fuel, labour and shipping costs.

In many cases in which long-term contracts are in place, those added costs can't be passed on to their American customers, Payne said, because the customers don't want to hear about highway problems in Manitoba. They want their goods delivered at the price set out in their contract.

"So you eat it," he said, "and that's a hardship for a lot of carriers."

Van der Linde said all Morris's businesses were affected to some degree by the highway closing, but some were hurt more than others.

He said many of the gas stations and restaurants get up to 75 per cent of their business from truckers and other people passing through town. In the case of the Mohawk truck stop, it's closer to 90 per cent.

When the highway and ring dike around the town are closed, much of that business is lost, he said, although Morris residents can still get in and out via a road on the east side of town.

Van der Linde said he's not aware of any businesses that were forced to shut down, but he knew of a few that had to temporarily lay off some workers.

Even with all that, this flood was less onerous than the last one in 2009, he said, because the closings didn't last as long -- 29 days versus 37 days then.

"That's eight days' difference, which is quite a difference."

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2011 B3

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