Alta. farmers welcome funding for road paving

EDMONTON — It’s taken 36 years, but the 430 kilometres of road from Slave Lake to east of High Level in northern Alberta will finally be completely paved.

The final stretch of pavement will be put on Highway 88 this summer in a project that began in 1978.

“I want to thank the Alberta government,” Mackenzie County councilor Bill Neufeld told provincial transportation minister Wayne Drysdale during the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties conference.

“It will be a real benefit to our farmers. We have no rail into the communities of La Crete and Fort Vermilion. All the grain goes out by truck and all the freight comes in by truck, so we thank you very much for the completion.”

Drysdale announced 2,500 km of highway rehabilitation during his presentation.

Work on the ring roads around Edmonton and Calgary is nearing completion, Drysdale said, and the focus can now shift to smaller highway projects. The government has budgeted $5.1 billion over three years to expand and rehabilitate provincial roads.

“We are happy to be once again in a place where we can focus on our smaller highways. We know municipalities are eager to see work underway in their regions,” Drysdale said.

“We had some tough times over the years and made some tough decisions. It’s always easy to cut maintenance when you are looking for money, and my department lost almost a billion dollars in the tough times. You can get away with that for a couple years. I am really happy they are putting money back into rehab and back into maintenance.”

The province has 28,000 km of paved highway.

AAMD&C president Bob Barss said he is happy the government is focusing on road maintenance and rehabilitation.

“We’re glad to see they’re doing that, and we’re glad to work with the government,” he said.

“As municipalities, we know we can’t do everything in one year. We have to do a percentage every year to get back on track. I think the government has shown the initiative to start that program and move ahead. It’s a good start. If you pick up 10 percent of the roads every year, it will take 10 years, but if you don’t do anything you’ll lose that infrastructure completely.”

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