The majority of Alberta’s Hwy. 63 to Fort McMurray will be twinned by fall 2015, the province’s transport minister announced last Friday.
Transportation Minister Wayne Drysdale said 70 per cent of the twinning on the busy roadway to Alberta’s oilsands will be completed by the end of next year, with the remaining 30 per cent to be completed by fall 2016.
“Budget 2014 puts us in a solid position to stay on this aggressive construction schedule, keeping our promise to people in Fort McMurray and across Alberta,” Drysdale said, referring to the $423 million allocated to Hwy. 63 improvements this fiscal year.
That funding is more than double last year’s investment, and reflects the $250 million in twinning contracts awarded on the highway in the past five months.
“By this summer, all the contracts will have been awarded and we expect about 650 workers and 470 pieces of equipment to be out in full force,” he said.
More than 20 per cent of the 240-km highway has been twinned and opened to the public, while another 60 per cent is currently under construction.
The fast-tracked twinning of Hwy. 63 is part of a province-wide roadway upgrade, and comes after years of significant public outcry about the safety of the highway, which carries large volumes of heavy industrial traffic north and south of Fort McMurray.
Just last Friday, a serious collision on Hwy. 63 north of Mariana Lake stopped traffic in both directions and redirected vehicles onto sister roadway, Hwy. 881.
The Alberta government has invested more than $1.4 billion in Hwy. 63 and 881 since 2005, in order to provide “critical infrastructure for the Athabasca oilsands region,” according to the department.
The upgrades also include projects within Fort McMurray city limits, including a new five-lane Athabasca River bridge crossing.