Klein ponders charging tolls on northern road (January 24, 2003)

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FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Premier Ralph Klein’s off-hand remark that Hwy. 881 in northern Alberta could become a toll road has been met with plenty of resentment.

Hwy. 881 is mainly gravel road that has been paved in 20-kilometre sections each year with the ultimate goal being to have it completely paved by 2006. But Klein says the province should consider recouping the cost of paving by allowing private investments and possibly charging tolls on the northern road.

On Tuesday, Klein said the communities along the highway promised years ago they would never ask for the highway to be paved. “Well guess what? They’re all saying ‘God, you’ve got to pave Hwy. 881,” he says.

“I can’t believe anyone would ever ask for a road not paved,” responded Brad Musat, president of the Lac La Biche and district Chamber of Commerce. “We’re opening up the north here and as it develops, the eventual progression would be to a paved highway.

Fort McMurray Mayor, Doug Faulkner, agrees. “I’ve got an idea. How would Ralph like it if the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo put a levy on every barrel of oil that comes out of the region,” Faulkner tells local media. “If he wants to make 881 a toll road, maybe, and I just want to stress the word maybe, we should levy two cents on every barrel of oil to get roads paved and to build more roads.”

Hwy. 881 is frequently used by trucks servicing the oilfields in the northern part of the province.

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