It is with a great deal of disappointment and frustration that I hear about the Alberta government's decision to cut the $300 million slated for upgrades to Highway 881 from its 2013 budget. It really is ridiculous that our region, in many ways the economic engine for not only this province, but the entire country, should have to be short-changed with such pathetic highway routes. Our two local MLA's, both members of the governing PC's, really should give their heads a shake.
While Highway 63 is slated to be twinned by 2016 (I'm still holding my breath on that), Highway 881 also plays an important role in our region. Not only does it provide an alternate route to Fort McMurray but it also provides vital road access for the smaller communities of Conklin, Janvier and Anzac, all three of which I've been to.
This past winter season has been pretty bad in terms of fatalities on both highways. I know I haven't really blogged about it but there was a period of time where it seemed I heard about accidents every other day. It reminded of the issue of suicide I dealt with on an all too regular basis when I was living in Nunavut. After awhile, you just become numb to it.
I wonder how many fatalities it will take before the government truly wises up? I really hope 114 is enough. That's the total number of fatalities that have occurred on both 63 and 881 from 2003 until the present, according to the Coalition for a Safer 63 and 881 website. You can see a map plotting all the accident sites here. Too many red crosses....too many. Those 114 deaths work to about one per month. And again, these crosses only represent accident sites, not casualty numbers. I've driven on every stretch of 881 and 63 in the region and its difficult to wrap my head around how many accident sites I've been by in even my short time here. Very tragic and sad.
Of course our local MLA's have lived here much longer than I have so what do I know? I'm sure we'll hear the whole spiel from them about how "Well, Fort McMurray is my home too and I find this all very troubling" yadda yadda. I'd like to think that if it really mattered, they would have stood up for our region and done a better job and making sure these sorely needed infrastructure funds weren't gutted. But then, we've been stuck with the same government here since the Ark so really, what can you expect?
Yup, you can always count on government to let you know where you and your community stands in the grand scheme of things.