More Cops On Hwy 63 Not Enough, Albertans Say

Highway 63 links the oil sands to Edmonton.

FORT MCMURRAY —Alberta’s Department of Transportation is trying to increase safety on Highway 63 by beefing up police presence and installing new digital signs along the road. But local resident’s say that’s not enough.

Sixteen new police officers will be assigned to Highway 63 by early 2013, with four of them starting as early as August. They will be a combination of RCMP and provincial sheriffs.

There are currently 22 police officers responsible for the highway.

The move is part of recommendations made by Mike Allen, the MLA for Fort McMurray- Wood Buffalo, in a report titled Toward a Safer 63. The report aims to reduce collisions by increasing enforcement and enhancing driver education.

In addition to the new officers, the province is also installing six new digital signs to provide instant feedback on drivers’ speed and increase attentiveness of motorists.

The province also recently held two enforcement blitzes and installed additional signage for upcoming passing lanes.

But many Albertans feel the government isn’t doing enough and are losing patience with the slow twinning process of the highway.

In the meantime, the government continues to look at financial options to speed up the construction of twinning the highway, a project that started in 2006.

“It seems like these announcements are acting as more of a smokescreen,” said Shayne Saskiw, Wildrose MLA for Lac La Biche-St.Paul-Two Hills.

Saskiw said he doesn’t disagree with the new measures the government is taking, but thinks that Albertans should get a timeline so they know when the construction will end.

But Allen said committing to a timeline is not as simple because they need to make sure the money is in place before they set a deadline for the project.

“It’s easy to place a timeline on any project if you have the funding in place,” he said. “But I can’t just walk into the finance minister’s office, ask for a half-billion dollars and walk out with a cheque. We don’t want to set a day and not deliver on that because it’s important that we have the money in place first.”

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