By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Coaldale councillor and chair of the Highway 3 Economic Development Association Bill Chapman believes Highway 3 has been an issue for a number of municipalities along the highway corridor, especially when its safety is concerned.
“Particularly, the issue with that fatality that occurred of Sheriff Chris Gerbrandt,” he said, that incident last month, was a turning point for the association.
According to Chapman, the association’s mandate is really about economic development, tourism, recreation and also safety.
“Twinning Highway 3 would capture all those issues quite nicely and in particularly safety because we know the two-lane highway isn’t doing any of the justice it used to do 20 years ago. The increase in volume of traffic on a two-lane highway has really increased,” Chapman explained.
In a letter to association members, Chapman stated a Highway 3 tragedy east of Grassy Lake and another the same weekend south of Fort Macleod reinforces the association’s goal to ensure highways are travel safe. After the tragedy near Grassy Lake, it was stated in the letter, Municipal District of Taber Reeve Brian Brewin relayed to media the association’s vision — Highway 3 needs to be twinned, as a further measure for safety, transport, agriculture needs and more.
Chapman noted the impact happening now is single-lane highways are proving to be very unsafe and because of the amount of increased traffic along Highway 3 — this issue has caused some concerns. “Plus the fact the safety issue is really impacted, as well. When you increase volume, you will increase some safety issues,” he said.
Highway 3, Chapman added, encompasses the whole corridor right from the Crowsnest Pass to Medicine Hat.
“The association is made up of member municipalities all along that corridor, which includes Crowsnest Pass, Pincher Creek, Fort Macleod, City of Lethbridge, Coaldale, Taber and including Medicine Hat. They’ve been long-standing members,” he said, adding the association has been active since 2000, and even then the mandate was to focus on the twinning of Highway 3.
Chapman believes there’s enough data and research to validate twinning the highway.
“Right now, we’re working on capturing some of that data and some of that research because those are the numbers we need to demonstrate twinning is really important. Right now, only about 100 kilometres is twinned, from Fort Macleod all the way to Taber is twinned highway, the rest of its 324 kilometres is not,” said Chapman. “It’s something that has to be done. The passing lanes that were created in the mid-2000s have done some justice but on the contrary, it has also caused some other concerns. Particularly the safety — people not using them properly. There has been some consequences of people taking chances.”
Alberta Transportation, Chapman said, has a master plan. “Whether this government wants to accept that master plan and move it forward is one thing. We’re just waiting for the minister of transportation to consider that master plan and move forward with it.”
“The present budget is about $790 million for highway rehabilitation, twinning prospects and also for widening. There’s a number of elements in their infrastructure program in the $790 million they want to allocate towards highways and towards roads. Part of that money would be included for twinning. Although, we haven’t heard specifically, where the twinning would occur,” Chapman added.
Chapman said there was definitely disappointment, as an association, Highway 3 wasn’t mentioned in the provincial budget.
“They’ve identified a number of other highways in Alberta,” he said.
“But Highway 3 was left off the list, for whatever reason. I think we just have to continue with that pressure to make that push for twinning Highway 3.”
Economically speaking, Chapman said, twinning is also important to economic development and growth.
“We’ve seen already how much growth there is in the south. We believe Highway 3 will be, that whole corridor, will have a tremendous impact on economic development. There’s an awful lot of growth already taking place. My concern is, with that growth, how much encroachment is occurring already onto Highway 3, which really gives very little room for a twinning prospect if you’ve got all these approvals for businesses like Broxburn Park, along Highway 3,” he said.
Economic development and tourism is the government’s focus, Chapman said, and he believes tourism is an integral part of the bigger picture.
“If you look at a map of Alberta, the Yellowhead Highway is twinned, which runs all the way from Manitoba and all the way through Saskatoon and Edmonton and across the province. The Trans-Canada is twinned in Alberta. Highway 2 is twinned, north and south. But, Highway 3 is not and Highway 3 is another main corridor for economic development, tourism and recreation. We’re seeing now a number of agricultural equipment that’s moving up and down Highway 3 and the safety issues involved with that. Those are concerns to us,” Chapman said.
As for economic development benefits to a community, municipalities can market their areas as a major corridor or hub.
“Businesses look for those major routes where they can set up shop,” he noted.
“The Town of Coaldale is at a perfect spot.”