Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/1/2009 (3941 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
But if you had to give a movie title to the portion of Highway 75 that runs through the Town of Morris, it would be a road picture more in the Hope-Crosby tradition: comedy.
That's because the road through Morris has become a joke. Every cut between segments of pavement — a segment is just over a car length — has buckled and heaved. The effect, driving through town, is like riding a galloping horse.
"That comparison has been out there for quite a few years," conceded Mayor Dale (not Dustin) Hoffman.
With Morris home to the Morris Stampede, one might even suspect it was planned that way. Hand-rubbing town planners met one fateful night in a shuttered home on the outskirts of town to devise a unique scheme among small towns vying for attention: turn main street into a version of the mechanical bull in the movie Urban Cowboy.
Not so, says Hoffman. Those road ridges were earned honestly from frost heaves. That, plus the province's infrastructure deficit that some blame on the Doer government.
The town has been petitioning for road repairs for a decade, Hoffman said.
"You assume it's going to get onto the provincial budget every year, but it never made it until it got to the point where everyone was crying about it," he said.
Now that it's made it onto the budget, there are delays. The stretch of Highway 75 through Morris — it's only two kilometres long — was finally supposed to be repaired in 2009. But there are now rumblings from the government that work might not start until 2010. It's expected to cost about $9 million.
As Hoffman points out, this is not a lightly travelled road. About $15 billion in trade passes through Morris each year, truck cargo between Manitoba and the United States. Then there's all the tourist action.
"It sends a different message to our friends in the United States. You get into our town, and as far as I'm concerned, the road is an embarrassment to the province," Hoffman said.
Some people might say the people of Morris should pay for the road themselves. After all, federal and provincial highways become the responsibility of Winnipeg taxpayers once inside the Perimeter Highway.
However, provincial highways are provincial responsibility in the countryside — with good reason in Morris's case. Most of the wear and tear on Highway 75 isn't caused by the 1,700 town residents, but from the 400,000 semi-trailers per year plus tourist traffic between Winnipeg and the United States.
Manitoba Highways has moved to mitigate the bumpy road for the short term. It has lined each raised ridge with asphalt to blunt the bounces.
It masks the problem somewhat, but there's still enough of a bucking- bronco effect to remind you you're in Morris. And you can expect the drive to get woollier in spring when the frost comes out of the road bed.
It's certainly frustrating for the town and regular users, and hopefully it'll be fixed soon. But for the infrequent traveller like me, I have to admit the infamous stretch of road always springs a laugh or two. It seems like a sport. Your steering wheel is the horse's reins, like in some Wii game.
Yee-haw! Heigh-ho, Silver! Away!