Big day for those along Highway 3

Premier Jason Kenney makes the twinning of Highway 3 announcement. To Kenney’s right is Rick McIver, Minister of Transportation and to the premier’s left is Grant Hunter, MLA for Taber-Warner and Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction. At the far right of the photo is Taber mayor Andrew Prokop.

The news many people in Southern Alberta have been waiting for came true July 2, partially. 

As part of the $10-billion infrastructure spending in the provincial government’s “Alberta’s Recovery Plan”, there will a 46-km stretch between Burdett and Taber which will be full twinned. It is supposed create 755 jobs.

The Government of Alberta indicates that Highway 3 has approximately 3,900 vehicles per day. 

While in Brooks on a mini-afternoon tour after the major announcement in Taber June 2, Premier Jason Kenney said in an interview with Prairie Post, that after years of advocates pushing for the twinning of the highway, the time was right to finally get Highway 3 completed. 

“It has always been a good project. What is different now is prices and so we are surging an unprecedented amount of money into job creation though infrastructure we want it to be shovel-ready infrastructure so as to create jobs now and will include long term productivity and the diversification of Alberta’s economy,” explained Kenney as he sat in a coffee shop in Brooks. “Highway 3 twinning ticked all those boxes. It advances the vision of Southern Alberta being this Canada’s premiere agriculture coordinator and will help grow the ag industry here so it just made so much sense in job creation short term and long term strategic diversification.”

However, there is a new player which could have a major influence on future additions to this twinning project.

“We are also working on a potential additional metallurgical coal mines in the Crowsnest Pass there are some big Australian multinational companies that have struck a partnership with the Piikani First Nation and (it’s) quite advanced,” added Kenney. “We have been clearing the way of regulatory hurdles. We may see multi-billion dollar capital investment in new coalminers in the Pas and that would certainly accelerate continue twinning especially on the west side of Highway 3. We want to move those potential coal mines ahead as quick as we can. As I say, this 46-km stretch will be done in 2023. If we get a commitment on one of those big coal mines before that, I think we may be able to expand the twinning in the medium term rather than the long term.”

According to the Canadian Mineral and Metals Plan: “Metallurgical coal, also known as met coal, coking coal, or steelmaking coal, is a vital ingredient for making steel, iron alloy, carbon and other metals used in everything from buildings, tools, trains, planes, and automobiles, to cookware, cutlery, surgical tools and implants.” 

It is different than thermal coal more widely known for its power generation capabilities.

Currently there a handful of passing lanes between Medicine Hat and Taber but only for a few kilometres. 

In addition to twinning, there will be key intersection improvements such as one at Highway 877 near Grassy Lake which 33 km east of Taber and 13 km west of Burdett.

The question of why that portion of Highway 3 was targeted and not the other from Burdett east was brought up or why not all. Kenney said it was due to two main factors.

“It came down to a technical study of the area where there is the heaviest traffic, where there is the most frequency of accidents and the greatest need. That stuff is not done arbitrarily by politicians. It is based on the data,” explained Kenney. “The whole project would be 250 (km) which would cost us over a billion dollars. We just don’t have that kind of money. And also it takes time. So this project hopefully will start next spring. They are going to do the engineering work now. Hopefully they will be having asphalt will be getting laid in the spring of 2021 but it won’t be done until 2023 and then we can assess if we are in a (fiscal) position on whether we expand on that.”

Lamb Weston’s plant is near the Fincastle area, of course there is the sugar beet plant and other agriculture business in Taber. There was an announcement in late June regarding Cavandish Farms and a new facility in Lethbridge. Another potato processing plant, McCain’s is also just off Highway 3 but is closer to Coaldale. That stretch between Coaldale and Taber is already twinned. 

The Highway 3 Twinning Development Association was obviously pleased with the news of the construction plans for what they called their “Priority 1” section.

“The Highway 3 Twinning Development Association is grateful for this significant progress towards the complete twinning of Highway 3. This project comes at a time when the cost to borrow is low, the cost of construction is competitive, and stimulus for job creation is high. We thank the Province for recognizing the significant return on investment and the positive impact to the citizens of surrounding municipalities, the trucking industry, and the agrifood producers and processors, just to name a few,” the association released in a statement.

Other major players with the lobbying for twinning Highway 3 were equally as excited.

“We are thrilled with the Premiers announcement to twin Highway 3 from Taber to Burdett, as our Association has been advocating for twinning since the 1970’s. Crowsnest Pass has been studying expansion of their section for almost 50 years, and our hope is that the Province will continue with twinning along the remainder of the corridor in the near future.” noted Blair Painter Crowsnest Pass mayor and Highway 3 Twinning Development Association Secretary.

“Lamb Weston is very excited about Jason Kenney’s announcement regarding the twinning of Highway 3 between Taber and Burdett. This project will greatly improve the safety of our employees and visitors accessing the facility from Highway 3, as well as the transport of goods accessing in and out of our site.” said Lamb Weston Plant Manager Scott Wojtowicz.

“The twinning of Highway 3, between Taber and Burdett, will not only increase safety in the movement of goods, services and people but it will also be a major infrastructure tool in helping establish this busy corridor as the agri-food hub of Canada,” added Grant Hunter, MLA for Taber-Warner.

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