The communities and industries in Wood Buffalo are growing rapidly. To support this development, Alberta Transportation has invested more than $1.4 billion since 2005 to provide critical infrastructure in Fort McMurray and the Athabasca oil sands region.
The two largest conventional-delivery contracts ever awarded by Alberta Transportation are located in the Fort McMurray Region: $150 million to build Phase 1 of the Parsons Creek interchange and $147 million to twin 32 kilometres of Highway 63 near House River.
Highway 63 construction update
Highway 63 projects expected to be awarded by the end of 2013:
- 28 km of twinning (grading/paving/bridges) from South of Horse Creek to North of Hanging stone River - fall 2015 completion
- Three Wandering River bridges - summer 2016 completion
- 17 km of base and pave from north of La Biche River to south of Wandering River – 2015 completion
- 27 km of base and pave near Wandering River – 2015 completion
- 32 km of base and pave from north of Mariana Lake to south of Horse Creek – 2015 completion
Current projects in Fort McMurray include:
- Confederation Way and Thickwood Boulevard interchanges are open with temporary ramps. Construction continues and minor remaining work will be complete by summer 2014
- Construction continues on Steinhauer, Franklin and Grant MacEwan Bridges over the Athabasca River with a 2014 completion target
- Work also continues to provide access for the Parsons Creek Development with public access to be provided in 2015
Budget 2013 Update
Budget 2013 confirms that construction is proceeding on Highway 63. Funding for this project stays the same and accelerated construction remains on track for 2016 completion. This project demonstrates our focus on supporting market access and economic opportunities in the core network, promoting safe travel for industry and Albertans, and improving flow of goods and services.
Transportation is one element of Budget 2013, and focuses on expanding market access through work on core infrastructure and key corridors. This benefits all Albertans, regardless of where they live, and is a smart use of taxpayer dollars.
Planned improvements to Highway 881 were announced but not tendered. All Highway 881 improvements will be deferred under the current budget situation, including the extension north of Anzac and connection to Highway 69.
However, we will see another three years of heavy construction activity along Highway 63 as twinning continues on an accelerated schedule for completion in the fall of 2016.
Ten years ago, Highway 881 was a gravel road. We have invested over $1 billion in Highways 63 and 881 and other projects in this region, which makes a tremendous contribution to our economy.
Our focus in the next few years will be expanding market access through work on our core transportation network, and maintaining our infrastructure investments.
Like every year, the three-year construction program – which includes priority projects throughout the province – will be posted online. Albertans will know how and where their tax dollars are being spent. Albertans will know how and where their tax dollars are being spent.
- We balance a number of issues in determining priorities:
- traffic volumes
- condition of existing infrastructure
- supporting increased economic activity
- safety records
- supporting new developments
- available funding
Twinning Highway 63
- The Government of Alberta has committed to twinning Highway 63 by 2016.
- The government of Alberta initially committed to twinning of Highway 63 from Highway 55 to Fort McMurray in 2006.
- In addition to 16 km of twinning that was completed south of Fort McMurray and 17 km of twinning north of Fort McMurray, the Alberta government opened 36 km of newly twinned four-lane divided highway north of Wandering River 8 months ahead of schedule in November 2012.
- We continue to make progress on the twinning and have completed much of the initial work, including surveying, tree clearing, grading and a number of consultations. Functional planning work, detailed engineering and design work, and land purchases are ongoing. Highway 63 is unique in Alberta when it comes to construction challenges, including continuous muskeg and boreal forest, pipeline crossings, and the size of industrial vehicles.
- The completion of 265 km of paving on Highway 881 in 2006 provided an alternate route to Fort McMurray and was an important step in taking the pressure off Highway 63, while allowing the twinning to progress.
Summary of current and recently completed projects
Since 2005, the province has invested more than $1 billion to support Highway 63 and 881 projects, providing critical highway infrastructure for the Athabasca oil sands region.
Five-lane Athabasca River Bridge ($127 million)..................................................... opened 2011
Thickwood Blvd Interchange and Confederation Way Interchange ($220 million) start opening 2012
Steinhauer Bridge rebuild ($51.7 million).......................................................... opening fall 2013
Grant MacEwan Bridge rebuild ($23.3 million)........................................... opening summer 2014
Twinning Highway 63 - 17 km north of Ft. McMurray ($80 million)............................. opened 2008
Twinning Highway 63 - 16 km south of Fort McMurray ($53 million)........................... opened 2008
Twinning Highway 63 - 36km north of Wandering River ($84 million)..................... opening fall 2013
Paving Highway 881 – converting 100km gravel to pavement ($62 million).............. completed 2006
Widened and repaved 5km Hwy 63 to Beacon Hill ($17 million)............................ completed 2008
Intersection improvement on Hwy 63 near Fort McKay ($4 million)............................ opened 2008
Capital projects in support of oilsands development such as the base pave of Hwy 813 and widening of Hwy 36 ($99 million)
Rehabilitation projects within the Athabasca Oilsands Area in support of oilsands development such as the overlays of Hwy 36 and Hwy 55 ($43 million)
Other costs include - Engineering and planning work, land acquisition, and utility relocations
Safety on Highway 63 must be addressed as a priority. Twinning is an important part of improving safety. The Government of Alberta has also taken many additional steps on behalf of Albertans to make Highway 63 a safer road to travel. More sheriffs, increased enforcement, increased signage, education, driver education, and the coordination and support of emergency services are all steps that have been taken to date. While overall collision rates on Highway 63 are slightly below provincial average for roads with similar traffic volumes, this highway is of great concern.
The five-year collision rate Highway 63 from the junction of Highway 55 to the south city limits of Fort McMurray has decreased to 81.87 collisions per 100 million vehicle kilometers for 2006-2010 compared to 84.97 for 2005-2009. This is below the provincial average of 107 collisions per 100 million vehicle kilometers for comparable two-lane undivided highways. A large percentage of the collisions on Highway 63 (40 per cent) continue to involve animals.
Both short-term and long-term safety measures, along with the twinning of Highway 63, will be key to the plans going forward.
| Paving work is underway on the Highway 63 twinning north of Wandering River. As of July 24, construction crews have completed 14 kilometres of the first lift of pavement and within this section, crews have also completed 7 kilometres of the second and final lift of pavement. (July 5, 2012)
View other Highway 63 construction videos and photos.