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Northern Alberta highways to get major upgrades

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. -- Alberta has announced some major spending plans for highways leading to the province's oil ...

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Alberta has announced some major spending plans for highways leading to the province’s oil patch.

The province yesterday announced it will spend $530 million on highways in the Northeastern part of the province over the next 10 years.

“This $530-million commitment supports the phenomenal growth we’re seeing in Wood Buffalo, and greatly improves the movement of goods, equipment and people to and within this vital region,” said Premier Ralph Klein. “These highway improvements are part of our long-term commitment that reflects the economic importance of this region.”

At the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) management conference on the weekend, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Dr. Lyle Oberg told delegates that between $1 and $1.5 billion is needed to bring the Fort McMurray region up to speed.

"It’s critical to the economy that we keep Fort McMurray moving, but we can’t do that at the expense of other infrastructure," Oberg said.

Yesterday’s announcement involves projects that will get underway this year. About $41 million will be spent this year on projects on Hwy. 63 in and around Fort McMurray and Hwy. 881 between Lac La Biche and Anzac.

“These highway improvements are needed to support rapid economic activity and are in line with what industry has said is needed,” said Oberg. “The plan right now is to make these upgrades over 10 years. I know the community wants it sooner than that and so do I. If provincial revenues remain strong, we will be in a position to push that timeline forward considerably.”

Oberg said Hwy. 63 will be twinned north of Fort McMurray from the Suncor Access to Fort MacKay and south of Fort McMurray to the junction with Hwy. 881. Twenty-five kilometres of passing lanes will be built between the junction with Hwy. 881 and Hwy. 55. There will also be staging areas for commercial vehicles near Crow Lake Provincial Park and near the junction with Hwy. 881. An additional commercial vehicle staging area will be built on Hwy. 881 near Conklin.

“This is a significant investment in Fort McMurray infrastructure that will enhance both travel and transportation,” said Guy Boutilier, Environment Minister and MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. “This is an important step in recognizing Fort McMurray’s important contribution to our province.”

The province also announced it will be developing a long-term plan for highways connecting Nisku and Edmonton to Hwys. 63 and 881 north of Boyle.

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