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Highway 63 twinning fast-tracked for fall 2016 completion

Comprehensive solution also includes improvements to Highway 881

Highway 63 motorists will travel a safe, completely divided four-lane roadway between Grassland and Fort McMurray by the fall of 2016.

“Our government promised quick action on Highway 63, and we’re delivering on that promise and more,” said Premier Alison Redford. “I believe improving safety for travellers along Highway 63 demands a comprehensive solution - one that includes enforcement, education, accelerated twinning construction, improved emergency response as well as improving Highway 881.”

Transportation Minister Ric McIver announced the accelerated twinning timeline while opening a newly twinned 36-kilometre stretch of highway just north of Wandering River. This complete twinning commitment represents an investment of almost $1.1 billion for Highway 63 twinning over the next four years and enhancements to Highway 881 over the next six years.

“Our highway network must support the safe and efficient movement of people and commodities to, from, and around Fort McMurray,” said McIver. “This is about investing in a region that makes a tremendous contribution to the province’s economy. This is about investing in Alberta’s future.”

New infrastructure commitments include:

  • $778 million for twinning the remaining sections of Highway 63 between Highway 55 and Fort McMurray;
  • $158 million to construct passing/climbing lanes and safety rest areas on Highway 881 to improve safety and better accommodate oversize loads;
  • $150 million to extend Highway 881 from Anzac to Highway 69 southeast of Fort McMurray to enhance safety; and,
  • $10 million to begin a planning study for the long term corridor needs.

By funding these projects through capital markets, the twinning will be complete approximately seven years sooner than would be expected through pay-as-you-go funding methods. With the province’s current AAA credit rating, taxpayers will also benefit from low interest rates and favourable economic timing.

Additionally, revenue generated from development opportunities will be used to support emergency response, capital cost recovery, and ongoing maintenance needs on this strategic transportation corridor.

The accelerated twinning timeline is one of several initiatives government is moving ahead with to address safety concerns and promote economic development in the Highway 63 region.  

Recommendations for both Highway 63 and Highway 881 were addressed in the Toward a Safer 63 report by Mike Allen, MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo and Special Advisor on Highway 63.  Released on June 29, the Special Advisor’s report included proposals such as enhanced driver education, establishing a dedicated law enforcement presence on the highway, increasing maximum penalties for high-risk behaviours, increasing the number of safety rest areas and pullouts, and utilizing unpaved but graded areas during winter months for oversized load rest points.

This announcement builds on recent actions taken by the Government of Alberta to improve safety and accelerate twinning construction, including a commitment to add an additional 16 traffic enforcement officers in the region, installing six digital speed feedback signs, work on two new passing/climbing lanes and extensions to six existing lanes, 27 kilometres of new grading near Wandering River and 55 kilometres of tree clearing between House River and Mariana Lake.

Visit www.transportation.alberta.ca/4942.htm for more information on Highway 63, including the Toward a Safer 63 report, construction video and photos, and other background information.

Backgrounder

Major investments in oil sands-area highways since 2002

Rural Highway 63

2002-08 - $155 million to twin 45 kilometres from Fort McMurray to north of Mildred Lake

2006-08 - $53 million to twin 16 kilometres from Fort McMurray to south of Highway 881

2009-12 - $84 million to twin 36 kilometres north of Wandering River

2012-16 - Estimated $778 million to twin remaining 188 kilometres of two-lane sections between Grassland and Fort McMurray

Highway 63 within Fort McMurray

2008-11 - $127 million for the new five-lane bridge over the Athabasca River

2008-12 - $220 million for new interchanges at Thickwood Boulevard and Confederation Way and related road work.

2011-13 - $51.7 million to rebuild the Steinhauer Bridge over the Athabasca River

2011-14 - $23.3 million to rebuild the Grant MacEwan Bridge over the Athabasca River

Highway 881

2002-07 - $64 million to complete paving of 130 kilometres between Lac La Biche and Anzac

2012-17 - Estimated $150 million to extend Highway 881 from Anzac to Highway 69

2012-18 - Estimated $158 million to add passing/climbing lanes and safety rest areas

Interesting Facts and Stats - Twinning Highway 63

Did you know...? The twinning of Highway 63 from Grassland to Fort McMurray requires the following:

  • 443,600 litres of traffic paint
  • 57,400 lbs of glass beads for paint reflectivity
  • 4.41 million tonnes of gravel
  • 2.3 million tonnes of asphalt concrete pavement
  • 479,000 tandem loads of gravel and asphalt
  • 9 major span bridges
  • 2,200 culverts
  • 4,100 delineators
  • 1,800 different units of construction equipment

Did you know...?  The twinning of the 36-kilometre section near Wandering River required the following:

  • 770,000 tonnes of gravel
  • 260,000 tonnes of asphalt
  • 15 utility crossings (five utility companies)
  • 3 bridge size culverts
  • A 30,770 m2 safety rest area
  • 282 new signs
  • 980,000 m3 of  muskeg removal
  • Working within a Caribou Protection Zone
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Media inquiries may be directed to:
Parker Hogan
Press Secretary
Minister of Transportation
780-643-9134
780-914-2869 (cell)
parker.hogan@gov.ab.ca
Twitter: @TPHogan

To call toll free within Alberta dial 310-0000.


Government of Alberta