WINNIPEG - Sometime this fall, if all goes well, the last two-lane stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway on the Prairies will be transformed into a safer, divided four-lane road.

The milestone can't come soon enough for motorists who've had close calls along the busy section of road that crosses the boundary dividing Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

"There would probably be a lot less accidents," said Dora Dewulf, a trucker who still remembers her first near-accident in the area 14 years ago, when her rig almost hit a converted bus head-on.

"He was coming at me, he was passing other traffic," Dewulf said. "We almost collided. He managed to pull back into his lane (as) I slowed down."

People who live along the road say accidents have been all too familiar.

"Our fire department is often called out with all their emergency vehicles," Ann Norgan, a councillor in the small town of Moosomin, Sask., said from her home. "When we hear the siren go, we know there's some unfortunate situation."

Four years ago, the two-lane stretch was almost 250 kilometres long, with most of it on the Saskatchewan side. The province had planned to finish widening its part of the road by 2012, but fast-tracked the project as energy revenues poured in.

Saskatchewan has twinned 160 kilometres of road since then and aims to finish by late fall. The only possible hiccup is a six-kilometre stretch near Moosomin that, depending on the fall weather, might have to wait until spring.

Manitoba, meanwhile, has twinned only 11 kilometre in the last four years. It hopes to finish the remaining 33 kilometres late fall as well, to reach the Saskatchewan boundary. The four-lane road will then stretch roughly 1,500 kilometres, from the edge of the Canadian Shield near the Manitoba-Ontario boundary to the Rocky Mountains in western Alberta.

Officials say the wider road will not only cut down the number of accidents, it will reduce the number of road closures.

"You won't have to worry about an accident potentially closing the Trans-Canada Highway for awhile," said Lance Vigfusson, assistant deputy minister with Manitoba's Department of Transportation.

"You may still have accidents, but at least you'd be able to reroute (traffic) to the other lanes."

While both provincial NDP governments insist there wasn't a competition to see who could get the pavement down first, Manitoba's opposition parties have chided the province for going more slowly than Saskatchewan.

"Work has progressed at a snail's pace," said Larry Maguire, transportation critic for Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives who has frequently tabled petitions asking the government to complete the twinning.

Once the work is done, truckers will set their sights on their next goal - the winding 2,000-kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada that snakes across northern Ontario and is almost entirely two lanes wide between the Manitoba boundary and an area just west of Ottawa.

"Ontario really needs to do a lot of work," said Dewulf.