Alberta HUB recently commissioned a study that will look into highways in Northeastern Alberta, including the heavily utilized Highway 28.
Alberta HUB serves as a regional economic information centre, it is one of eleven in the province. Basically, Alberta HUB looks after the best interests of residents and investors in Northeastern Alberta. “We’re an alliance of 36 communities, three college’s and business and industry,” explains Executive Director of Albert HUB Bob Bespalko.
The transportation study will allow Alberta HUB to present the government with facts that will back-up what municipalities in the area have been advocating for many years, the highways in the area need major upgrades.
One of the roadways the study will focus on is Highway 41, which Bespalko describes as the “Gateway to the US”. While Highway 28 connects The Lakeland to routes across Canada, 41 goes north-south to the US border.
Highway 41 has been on a 75% transportation ban since the beginning of spring, which means heavy hauling trucks can only transport 75% of their maximum weight capacity. The weight ban is due to the highway sloping at Kehewin Lake. The area is a high-load corridor, which proves to be extremely difficult on oil industry companies who are unable or who must adjust their products to transport goods through this route. “A 75% road ban has really thrown a wrench into transportation,” Bespalko explains.
One company has been manufacturing oilfield modules north of the slide location, however when the company needs to transport the modules they must break them down. Which is proving to be costly and leaves companies wondering why they would set up in the north if there is no way to transport their goods to their customers or if it would cost more to transport due to having to breakdown their products for shipping.
The study is two-fold, explains Bespalko, “first to provide the Government of Alberta, specifically the Transportation Department, with information on the current state of our infrastructure.” Along with the issues on Highway 41, Highway 28 is one of the busiest highways in Alberta, says Bespalko, “it is deteriorating quickly.”
The second part of the study will give a monetary value to the highway system, “what happens on the highways and the sustainability and growth of our region,” explains Bespalko. How does transportation play into how our communities grow? “It’s not just oil and gas,” Bespalko says the added cost can trickle down and this study will examine that, “how does the added cost to transportation affect retail or grocery stores and other businesses?”
A recent traffic count at Highway 41 ad 28 intersection in Bonnyville showed there were 20 000 vehicles passing through every day. “The infrastructure at that intersection was not made to handle that volume,” says Bespalko, “more importantly, what type of traffic was it built to handle?” It’s very important for the government to understand the industry development and they type of heavy load trucks that are regularly travelling on the highways.
It’s not only about the safety of those travelling the highways for leisure, but also the cost associated with transporting goods through this route. If the cost is too great, it could mean the area would lose companies willing to invest in the area. On top of that, the added cost of transportation can be seen at the retail level, making living in Northeastern Alberta more costly on the average resident.
The study hopes to give the government a concrete idea of how vital transportation is to the region and what needs to be done to ensure transportation is able to be done at an optimal level on the local highways. Bespalko applauds the Mayors and Reeves in the area for working with the MLAs. Recently, Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA, Scott Cyr met with the provincial minister of infrastructure and transportation to discuss the state of Highway 28.