Later this year will mark the 10th anniversary of the completion of work to twin the Trans-Canada Highway entirely through Saskatchewan. The event was officially marked in December of that year with a government celebration of the achievement, and you can be sure travellers celebrated, too.
Here in southern Alberta, Highway 3 is just as important a roadway, taking travellers west to B.C. and east to Medicine Hat, and from there along the Trans-Canada to Saskatchewan and points beyond.
Yet, despite decades of efforts to have Highway 3 twinning completed, southern Albertans are still waiting.
An update from the Highway 3 Twinning Development Association on Tuesday told those in attendance at Lethbridge City Council that recent amendments to the Municipal Government Act provides communities along the Highway 3 corridor with an opportunity to step up efforts to push the province to complete the twinning work.
As indicated in a front-page story in Thursday’s Herald, Intermunicipal Collaborative Frameworks and Intermunicipal Development Plans are now adopted policies for municipal governments. Association spokesman Harry Harker noted, “If every municipality in the Highway 3 corridor adopted supporting statements in their frameworks and in their plans, that’s an incredibly powerful statement that has never been there before for the municipalities to use.”
Some 220 kilometres of Highway 3 remain two-lane, which not only hinders the flow of traffic but also presents safety concerns.
“I think many of us can recall some of the horrific accidents that have happened on Highway 3, almost always in the areas that haven’t been twinned yet,” Lethbridge mayor Chris Spearman said following Tuesday’s presentation. “(There are) significant, serious, safety issues that need to be addressed.”
The presentation noted that a cost-benefit analysis done by the University of Lethbridge showed twinning the highway would produce local economic returns of $3 for every $1 in construction costs.
The Twinning Development Association, in a 2017 presentation, pointed out that over a 20-year period, the net value of twinning the highway would top $2.3 billion.
In 2007, then Minister of Transportation Luke Ouellette pledged to move forward with Highway 3 twinning plans. But that was before the 2008 recession followed by the slowdown in the Alberta oilpatch that put a dent in provincial coffers.
However, as Spearman noted on Tuesday, “We need to elevate the importance of Highway 3, not only for the city of Lethbridge, but for the entire region of southern Alberta.”
Completion of Highway 3 twinning is important for the safety of travellers, and it’s crucial to the economic growth of southern Alberta. It’s a project that needs to be completed, and sooner rather than later.
Here’s hoping southern Alberta communities can get that message across to the provincial government so the wheels can be put into motion to get it done.