Highway 63 Newly Twinned Portion Opens: Dangerous Road To Fort McMurray Aims For Increased Safety

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HIGHWAY 63 TWINNING
In a bid to increase the safety of those traveling along northern Alberta's treacherous Highway 63, a newly twinned, 36-kilometre section will open today.(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh) | CP

In a bid to increase the safety of those traveling along northern Alberta's treacherous Highway 63, a newly twinned, four lane, 36-kilometre section will open today.

The stretch of highway, which runs north of Wandering River, was set to open in October but was delayed due to bad weather.

According to Transportation Minister Ric McIver, "new signage, awareness and increased enforcement" are additional measures being taken to ensure enhanced safety and a reduction of congestion on the busy road.

The Alberta transportation department said that the road will open around noon Monday, but warned drivers that there may be delays of up to 45 minutes for southbound traffic as northbound traffic clears the twinned stretch and moves from the existing lanes to new lanes.

The opening of the twinned section comes just weeks after the Alberta government announced plans to fast-track the twinning of Highway 63, with a completion date by the fall of 2016. When completed, motorists will be able to travel along a completely divided four-lane highway from Grassland to Fort McMurray.

The highway made headlines this past year after seven people died in a horrific, head-on crash in April. More than 120 people have died on Highway 63 in the past 12 years, reports Alberta Oil Magazine.

"The biggest thing I'd like to see is the twinning of the highway," Ronald Thompson, 59, told Alberta Oil Magazine. Thompson lost his daughter, son-in-law and one grandson in April's crash.

Fort McMurray resident Annie Lelievre was in Edmonton last week petitioning to speed up the highway twinning. Lelievre lost her son, Jason, to a head-on collision on Highway 63 in December 2011.

Despite the government's promise to expedite the twinning project, Lelievre believes it should be done sooner.

"I truly believe in all my heart that my son would still be here if the Highway was twinned," she told CTV News.

"I don't want anybody to live what I live every day. We don't want any more family members taken by this highway."

As of last week, she had collected more than 38,000 print and online signatures and plans to present her petition to legislature on Nov. 8.

"I'm not going to give up until I get an answer. I need a timeline. They can have it done in three years, no problem. There are so many options for them to get this done," she told Fortmcmurraytoday.com.

Conditions on the road can be so dangerous that at least one association forbids their own employees from driving it. According to CBC Edmonton, The Alberta Construction Safety Association instituted a "no-drive" policy after they lost an employee to a crash several years ago.

"That highway [is] as dangerous in the summer as winter," said executive director Dan MacLennan.

"So we want to encourage people not to go and we're part of the coalition for a safer 63 and we want to walk the talk."

Alberta residents are lobbying for faster twinning of the southern portion of the highway, as well.

"It's definitely important to our community to make sure that we have that entire highway twinned and that entire stretch of road safe for us to drive on to be able to reach hubs like Edmonton where a lot of people travel for medical reasons and to see family," Ashley St Croix, owner of the website twin63now.ca, told CBC Edmonton.

The province said they will look at the rest of the highway when the current twinning work in completed in 2016.

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