Upgrade Highway 63 north of Fort Mac: oil industry

As demands continue for the province to speed up twinning the southern leg of Highway 63, oil companies are considering options to increase capacity on the northern section.

“We see it as the same kind of urgency as the southern stretch,” said Ken Chapman, spokesperson with the Oilsands Developers Group, which represents over 30 oil companies

“There’s an awful lot of traffic up there as well.”

Chapman said the province already committed to twinning the 240-kilometres of Highway 63 that runs south of Fort McMurray. That section has been the focus of protests and public pressure since a fiery crash killed seven people a little over a week ago.

Oil companies are interested in improving the road north of Fort McMurray, which leads to many oilsand developments.

Chapman said one of the options is to have industry pay for construction costs and recoup that money — possibly through direct funding from the province or the introduction of tolls.

“We’re not suggesting industry be responsible for developing public roads,” Chapman said. “But can we work collaboratively and advance that faster?”

But many of the people who drive Highway 63 say oilsands companies have a responsibility to pay for work on the south part of the route.

“The only reason people drive that highway is for industry,” said Dion Lefevre, who witnessed the deadly crash on April 27th. “They're benefiting, they should pay."

RCMP and traffic sheriffs stepped up enforcement on section south of Fort McMurray this weekend and laid 663 charges over four days.

“What’s particularly disturbing for us is that we continue to send officers up there, and they continue to find people exhibiting poor driving behaviours,” said James Stiles, deputy director of Sheriff Traffic Operations North.

Police doubled patrols on the highway between Redwater and Fort McMurray between Thursday and Sunday.

The vast majority of the charges were for speeding. Stiles says a handful were going as fast as 50 km/hr over the speed limit.

Others were charged with dangerous driving, driving without insurance and driving under the influence.

Even with the April 27th crash still fresh in people’s minds, Stiles said people aren’t getting the message.

“It just seems people are not getting the message up there,” he said.

“They’re not slowing down … It’s troubling.”

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