SASKATOON -- The Ministry of Highways has opened two new sets of passing lanes on Highway 2 between Prince Albert and Christopher Lake which it says will improve safety.

"Passing lanes offer opportunities for motorists to pass, leading to improved traffic flow and also ensuring everyone gets to their destination safely," said Minister of Highways Fred Bradshaw.

Construction of the eight-kilometre stretch cost $7.5 million and was completed ahead of schedule.

“On this highway you’ll see everything from pulp haulers, to campers to boats being towed, semis going north up to the mines,” said Don Fryk, a local area resident.

“If people use these properly, that’s going to save a lot of tragedy, headaches, time.”

According to collision statistics recorded by SGI, the five year average of collisions on Highway 2 between Prince Albert and Christopher Lake is 55 per year.

The province's first major passing lanes pilot project, Highway 10, shows 75 per cent fewer fatal crashes five years after its completion. Other studies cited by the government report a 25 per cent reduction in collisions on highways with passing lanes.

Still, John Halkett, band councillor of the nearby Little Red First Nation, says he would have liked the stretch made into a twinned double lane highway as on weekends the traffic can be backed up a couple of kilometers.

“You got a passing lane on this side but if you’re heading south you can’t pass on that side. It’s a solid line. So I’m hoping it’s incomplete and will be completed sometime,” said Halkett.

He says members from his community benefited from the project by selling 30,000 yards of gravel used in its construction.

"Highway 2 is such an important corridor for the area and these new passing lanes will benefit so many people through safety and expanded capacity for an ever-growing area,” said MLA for Saskatchewan Rivers Nadine Wilson.

Over the next two years, the Government of Saskatchewan is constructing 30 new sets of passing lanes, building on the 27 sets constructed in the last four years.