The province says it's able to move ahead with a $76.5-million plan to widen a section of Highway 1A that cuts through the Stoney Nakoda Reserve now that both parties have agreed to a land-transfer deal.
The project will see 29 kilometres of the highway between Cochrane and Canmore widened from 6.7 metres to 13 metres, creating shoulders on either side, the province said in a release on Tuesday.
Wesley First Nation Chief Clifford Poucette welcomed the project.
"It's a mark of history in regard to the 1A," Poucette said.
"It's a special day for the Stoney Nakoda people. Safety is No. 1."
Poucette said many Indigenous people are open to new opportunities like this one.
"For economic development in the future, we will be striving for those adventures and opportunities."
The roadway has not been significantly upgraded since it was built in 1946.
This year's budget allocated $26.5 million in the four-year capital plan. The remaining $50 million will flow in future years, the province said.
Design, environmental and archeological work will be completed before a contract is awarded. It's expected the project will take two or three years to complete.
Crews have already started survey work to define the scope of the project.
Premier Jason Kenney said the project was long overdue.
"There have been far too many accidents, injuries and fatalities. For us, this is a public safety issue. It should have happened a long time ago."
Cochrane interchange gets $65M
The province also announced funding for a nearby interchange, at Highway 1A and Highway 22, near Cochrane.
"This is another giant step forward towards making the long-awaited interchange a reality," said Cochrane Mayor Jeff Genung.
"We look forward to seeing a construction timeline and joining with the province in celebrating as shovels hit the ground. I'm really proud of the work Cochrane has been doing."
The intersection sees about 27,000 vehicles a day and Highway 1A is a popular alternative to the Trans-Canada Highway.