Yesterday I arrived home and grabbed a copy of the local newspaper out of my mailbox. Normally, nothing terribly exciting but this time was different as the paper contained a special insert entitled "Voices for Change". Dated June 3rd or 6/3, it was dedicated to the victims of Highway 63. I took the insert with me to work this morning and was reading it, appropriately enough, while on my bus to work, traveling Highway 63.
A bit of background on the progress, or lack thereof, on the twinning of the highway for those who may not be familiar with it - In 2006, following an election a government spokesman said during an interview that the government was looking at a 5-year plan to completely twin Highway 63 between Fort McMurray and Grassland. The following year that nice little 5-year plan became a 7-year plan. A maximum end date for completion was given...2013. In 2009, the government changed their scope and timeline even further, as it was announced that a mere 36 km stretch north of Wandering River would be completed by the fall of 2011. To date, NONE of these promises and plans have seen the light of day. All this has led up to last month's protest I blogged about a short time ago. The latest is that one of our local MLA's has been appointed as "special advisor" to the Premier on this matter. His recommendations are due to be presented on June 29. And so we continue to wait.
The insert was full of small quotations from people in the community voicing their concern about the highway and giving their reasons for having a safer Highway 63. A couple of my favorites, because I use the highway on a regular basis to get to work and back were these...
"I need a safer Highway 63 because I will not let my husband, brother, cousin, friend or neighbour stop living while he's trying to make one."
"I need a safer 63 so that I return home each night to my family. Too many families have members that will not be returning home."
"I want a safer Highway 63 because I don't want any child looking to the sky (like little Timmy [the youngest survivor in last month's tragedy who lost his entire family]) and asking why mom and dad left him behind."
Also included are photos and memorials to those who have been killed in recent years on the highway, including those involved in the most recent tragedy back in April, in which 7 were killed (8 if you include the unborn child involved). There is also a time line dating from 2000 to the present giving the dates of all the tragedies on Highway 63 that claimed lives. I got curious and counted just home many needless deaths there had been. I counted 122. The causes and circumstances were many...head-ons, collisions with moose, t-bones, multi-car crashes, collisions with large trucks. In the end there are just too many. Too many lives cut short. Too many devastated families.