Energy company takes infrastructure into its own hands

FORT McMURRAY, Alta. – The highway congestion that has accompanied Alberta’s oil boom has been an issue of contention for a few years now.

While many highway travelers continue to wait for Highway 63 – the main route between Edmonton and Fort McMurray – to be twinned south of the city, Suncor Energy has taken steps to improve the highway north of the city.

Suncor Energy and the Province of Alberta have signed an agreement for the construction and maintenance of an interchange that will improve traffic flow and safety on Highway 63. Under the agreement, Suncor will pay for and construct a $55 million interchange, to be built about 25 kilometres north of Fort McMurray. Once complete, ownership will transfer to the province.

The new highway infrastructure is expected to provide benefits for all users of Highway 63 north of Fort McMurray, including employees and tradespeople working at Suncor’s existing and planned operations, as well as community residents and workers at industry sites further north.

The interchange will replace the current ground-level intersection. When complete, it’s expected to allow traffic to maintain speed on the highway, reducing travel times through this busy area, while on- and off-ramp access improves safety at the intersection.

The interchange will also accommodate future widening of Highway 63.

“The new interchange will improve safety for motorists and reduce congestion on Highway 63,” said Kirk Bailey, executive vice-president with Suncor. “But we’re not in the infrastructure business, so it makes sense to have the province own and maintain the interchange.”

Construction on the project is underway and is expected to be completed by December 2008. The province will assume ownership of the interchange once it passes all quality assurance inspections.

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