A 66-kilometre stretch of highway from Sylvan Lake to Rocky Mountain House will be twinned in a $120-million project that will give the region a tourism and economic boost, announced Premier Jason Kenney on Friday.
The investment is part of Alberta’s $10-billion recovery plan and will create about 580 jobs, while upgrading the highway and improving traffic flow along an important recreation corridor to the West Country, says the government.
Kenney was joined by a small crowd of provincial and municipal officials as he announced the project in Kuusamo Industrial Park, just southwest of Sylvan Lake.
The premier said the West Country is “blessed with plenty of rich farm and pasture land and a treasure trove of natural resources, including timber, coal, oil and gas.
“These primary industries, including resource exploration and development, are hugely important to the economy in this area, as is the growing tourism sector.
“There is enornous potential to expand all of these economic drivers, and the David Thompson Highway is the backbone to support that investment to create those future jobs and to generate the growth that will come along with it.
Engineering and design work is to start immediately, and construction, which will be done in sections, will begin next year. The government did not say how long it would take to the complete the project.
Transportation Minister Ric McIver said the twinning improves safety, helps build the region’s tourism industry and improves an important transportation link for area industry.
The project will also see the Secondary Highway 781 intersection — long a local irritant because of its poor access — improved southwest of the town.
Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon said the number of tourists to the region has been “exploding” in recent years.
“Anything we can do to enhance access to those tourism hot spots is welcomed,” said Nixon, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA.
Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre said the previous twinning of the highway between Sylvan Lake to Red Deer improved safety and efficiency and created economic opportunities.
“The twinning of Highway 11 from Sylvan Lake to Rocky Mountain House is yet another step in our province’s continued growth as a leader in the development of communities, industry and tourism.”
Rocky Mountain House Mayor Tammy Burke also applauded the government’s investment
The twinning will “bring enormous change to our community, starting with safety and ending with economic growth.
“This is great news for our future.”
Burke said the region has seen more visitors as Albertans choose to vacation closer to home.
“We know that these visitors, once they see what our incredible town and region have to offer, will be back.”