“I think of it as the forgotten highway…”
As the saying goes, in England they drive on the left, on Highway 28 you drive on what’s left.
The deteriorating highway with no passing lanes between Cold Lake to Edmonton has been a hot municipal government topic for years because of it’s dangerous stretches and tendancy to lead to multiple fatalities a year, and local councils are trying to band together to get the Ministry of Transportation to look at the road seriously.
The M.D. has written a letter, co-signed now by the Town of Bonnyville and City of Cold Lake to try and get the attention of Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney.
“We have to do something about this highway. It’s the corridor to our area and nothing ever seems to get done. They’re starting to work on some intersection treatments, but the whole highway needs uplifting,” said Reeve Barry Kalinski, who says he’s met with the minister on a couple occasions and is anticipating a sit-down sometime in June.
“Even when you look at tourism. Are people going to come to our area? You get on the highway and you can’t keep your camper on, it keeps bucking all the way from who knows where. The guys that run trucks, they gotta run that stupid highway every day.”
Local leaders including MLA David Hanson have maintained that Highway 28 should be prioritized as a corridor to the northeast region because of the area’s contribution to the oil and gas industry. It’s often cited that roughly 30 per cent of Alberta’s bitumen revenues come from the region.
Cold Lake mayor Craig Copeland has been harping about the highway for years. He says in his discussions that the metric they use to determine priorities keeps the highway out of the limelight.
“The unfortunate thing that everybody has to realize is Alberta Transportation bureaucrats look at traffic counts as kind of a measuring stick to enhance a highway when it is twinning [highways],” said Copeland.
“It may take forever for our population to hit those counts. I think it’s more about the safety. Looking at it from a real safety standpoint, there’s a lot of bad intersections on the highway, hard to pass for 300 kilometers with no passing lanes. And so the government needs to look at it with a different lens.”
Copeland highlighted the success that Cold Lake First Nations had in reducing the speed limit near the Casino Dene intersection to 80 kilometres an hour in recent times.
And while some improvements at the Fort Kent and Ardmore intersections were included in the province’s recent multi-year roads plan, local officials don’t believe that is enough.
The prevalence of collision, especially when it comes to fatalities is a rallying point for these surrounding communities. It’s good for the region to come together on this, says Bonnyville mayor Elisa Brosseau.
“All they’re wanting to do is widen the intersections, which we don’t feel is adequate enough. Really, they shouldn’t be doubling it, if anything, but just widening the intersections and Ardmore and Fort Kent will not, we don’t believe ,will solve the problem,” said Brosseau.
“There’s strength in numbers. So if we’re all talking the same language, the M.D., Cold Lake, ourselves, St. Paul, any municipality along Highway 28, hopefully we can start getting the ear and the attention of the province and hopefully bringing this to the top of the list of their priorities.”
Time will tell to see if these efforts result in actions from the province.