Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A new year, and a new provincial budget, but the Highway 3 Twinning Development Association says that the road to a safer and more enjoyable Highway remains constant.
While nothing was explicitly announced in the budget with regards to further development on the highway, Director of Advancement Victoria Chester said that this doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be work done.
“There wasn’t anything in the budget for 2022. But we were told that when we got the money for twinning for Taber to Burdett, too. We were told that, at budget cycle, there’s nothing and then they announced Taber to Burdett. So every year there are general funds for road improvements, every single budget cycle, and, and that those are distributed throughout the province. So the province identifies what they’re where they’re going to spend that after they put the budget out,” said Chester. “We’re often just saying, Give us something to keep the momentum rolling.”
The functional planning study for Piikani nation was also funded, though Chester notes that while the nation is interested, the engagement process is not yet complete and there are still channels that need to be gone through between the Piikani Nation and the Department of Transportation.
The Highway 3 Twinning Association is pleased with current development, said president Bill Chapman.
“We’ve got a totally supportive Minister of Transportation, who has been fully on board, as well as our as well as our MLAs and the Government of Alberta,” said Chapman. “So we’re very pleased with the steps that are being taken. I think they are logical steps and very productive steps. And I think that the methodology that they’re using to move the project forward is very, very good.”
Currently, the association is reviewing responses to a Request for Proposal, in order to help with an economic impact study.
“We currently have eight, the board will be reviewing those next week, the purpose of that it is a cat chasing their tail situation where we’re looking to try to find funding to fund the study, the economic impact study, we have some money in our budget, but we’re really small association with a small budget,” said Chester. “So our plan is to ask some of our affiliate members or local groups to see if they would be willing to help us. So we were going to do that first. But then we were basically told by these groups, they want to kind of know how much the price will be.”
There has been commitment from Community Futures along the corridor, as well as the Department of Transportation, with potential to connect with some tourism groups along the highway.
“We continue to have great membership as far as municipality support and association support. But we need the business industry to step up,” said Chester. She notes that while many of the businesses seem passionate, they have yet to step up financially to become members.
The petition available on the association’s website is still live, though Chester believes they may close it later this year. As of March 18th, they currently have 3,781 of what she hopes will be 10,000 signatures.
Chester meets with the Director of Transportation every month, and said as of their last meeting, they’ve secured a good portion of the land required to begin construction on the Taber to Burdett stretch in regards to the larger land owners.
“They are working on the smaller landowners. So I think there are only about 45% through the smaller landowners. Of course, we can’t start paving or moving dirt until the land has been acquired,” said Chester. “So people are like what is taking so long, it’s like, well, there’s a lot of landowners along that section, and that you need to negotiate with accordingly. For the most part, landowners are happy as far as I know, there’s only one landowner that had a negotiation occurring, and that has taken a bit of extra time.”
Designs are currently underway, and Chester hopes that they will have secured a contractor by September–October.
“If all things are great, they may be able to start some construction, if not construction is most likely going to happen spring of 2023. And the hope is we’ll be done by the end of the year,” said Chester.
“We believe in the full project and I think all our mayors and reeves along Highway 3 want to see the whole project done,” said Chapman. “We’d like to continue on and work with the government to ensure that this project is complete. And in the meantime, we just encourage all our people in Alberta to log on to twin3.ca and sign a petition to have highway three twinned. I think the petition really speaks for Albertans as a whole who see the importance of twinning highway 3.”
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