WINNIPEG – The eye-popping destruction of a stretch of a western Manitoba highway has grown a bit deeper.
The approximately 200-metre section of Highway 83 had further caved in at some points to a depth of about eight metres below its regular surface — from roughly five metres — since Tuesday, the provincial government’s infrastructure and transportation department said Wednesday.
The “moving and shifting,” contract services director Larry Halayko said, had continued because of excessive ground moisture at the site just west of the village of Inglis, between the towns of Russell and Roblin.
“If you can imagine some greasy, slippery material under the ground and the land on top is just kind of sliding along it — that’s what is happening.”
The two-lane highway crumbled and dramatically collapsed near the Shell River early Sunday, prompting Manitoba infrastructure and transportation to barricade the destroyed section.
The collapse occurred because of recent rainfall totalling about 10 to 12 inches weakening the sloped ground below the road, Halayko said.
Steve Ashton, minister of infrastructure and transportation, stressed that a reconstruction of the major north-south route “will be a priority” in the weeks and months ahead.
“This is a very significant transportation route,” Ashton said.
He also shot back at Conservative infrastructure critic Ralph Eichler’s accusations Tuesday that the governing New Democrats had allowed the highway to fall apart due to shoddy maintenance.
Ashton suggested that a saturated ground from last year’s floodwater was a factor in the collapse, and said the government has set aside $50 million for each of this year and next year for flood-related reconstruction projects.
“This adds one more challenge,” he said. “But we’re determined to meet it.”