When the bridge on Hwy. 311 burned last Wednesday evening, many had to think about rerouting, including the Hanover School Division (HSD) buses.
Robert Warkentin, Head of HSD Bus Division says the fire occurred between two communities in HSD’s catchment area, Landmark and New Bothwell.
“Essentially, it's kind of isolated down to two runs that we've had to do some alterations on a daily basis,” Warkentin explains. “Not a highly populated area, just a lot of farm families there. So, most of them have to come back down to Mile Rd. to the south, Crown Valley on the gravel and loop around."
He adds he is anticipating the bridge to be a “long-term fix.”
“Looking at next year's routing and stuff and seeing if starting off, we might look at something a little different, but it's very unfortunate, for sure,” he says.
Warkentin says buses take this route for more than just going to school and back home.
“We do have a fair amount using the 311,” he explains. “Whether it's going on an extracurricular trip, going to Winnipeg from perhaps Blumenort or wherever. We have kids from Landmark that take shops or home ec in Niverville, so they're going back and forth.”
He says now, they will have to take Provincial Road 210 or find alternate ways to get across, adding it is a "bit of an inconvenience” to residents as well.
The loss of the bridge isn’t the only reason for the need to reroute. Warkentin says the soft country roads due to frost boil and heaves are a factor in changing routes, especially in the southeastern parts of the division.
“At this point, I haven't heard too much from our northern people in our division there. That hasn't been as bad. The southeast here is worse. We have some issues with some of our routes in the southeast where there's rerouting or contacting their families and ‘meet me at this corner’ or those sorts of things. Currently, on a day-to-day, I think the poor condition of our rural roads is causing us more issues,” he explains.
He adds drivers are surprised when they encounter soft spots on routes they usually take, describing the situation as “unique and challenging.”
“You kind of have a good idea where those soft spots are," he says. "This year like usual, but I think worse than usual, our southeast corner of our catchment area east of Hwy. 12, the south of the 52, and that corner southeast of Steinbach. I think about five buses which are kind of travelling those roads and having to do some minor detours, or you know, having families meet at a different driveway for a day or two while they decide how the road gets.”
Despite the inconveniences, he says, "Hopefully, in the short future, we'll be back to running where we're supposed to be every day.”
With files from Corny Rempel.