About two weeks ago Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced the government will spend $150 million to further twin a busy 46-kilometre stretch of southern Alberta highway, stakeholders weighed in on the economic value of the project.
Construction is slated to begin sometime in 2021, and the new development is expected to create hundreds of jobs.
This section of the highway connects Taber to Burdett, an east-west agriculture corridor, and developers say the overall economic impact will have a much wider reach.
Funding for the project is part of the province’s $10-billion economic recovery program earlier this month.
The highway is an east-west link south of the Trans-Canada Highway. It is a major connector between Saskatchewan and British Columbia and sees about 3,900 vehicles per day, according to the province.
For the Canada’s Premier Food Corridor coalition — comprised of five communities in the region helps promote economic investment in the agri-food industry, including Coaldale, Lethbridge, Lethbridge County, Taber, and the Municipal District of Taber — the highway project is welcomed news.
According to the town of Coaldale, these five municipalities represent the “industrial heartland” of the wider agriculture sector and have been working closely with one another to bring attention to opportunities available in the region for global companies.
“The exceptional irrigation conditions and availability of natural resources such as wind, sunlight and water enable the region to sustain one of the most productive and versatile farmlands in Canada, making it a desirable location for value-added agri-food processing,” read a release sent by the town Monday.
As the region is heavily reliant on roads as the primary method of moving commercial goods, those with a vested interest say new infrastructure is necessary to support increased demand in the agriculture industry.
The Town of Coaldale says the twinning of Highway 3, which is a “primary trade route,” will help encourage “intensified economic growth.”
According to SouthGrow Regional Initiative, a local non-profit economic development organization which encourages regional collaboration, because infrastructure has not kept up, transportation has been insufficient for growing levels of production.
In turn, creating logistical barriers for global food companies interested in locating to the area that may translate to opportunities being lost.
“The investment in twinning Highway 3 makes southern Alberta a much more competitive region in the global agri-food industry,” executive director Peter Casurella with SouthGrow said.
“Expanding the east-west corridor will not only make transporting local goods to the US.. Midwest port facilities easier, it will also make travel to Eastern Canada much more efficient.”
As the geographical centerpiece to agricultural corridor, the town of Coaldale says the project will have innumerable “spill-over benefits for the broader regional economy.”
The town also says expanding Highway 3 will be pivotal in attracting both domestic and foreign investment, creating effects of local trade, support services, and other economic opportunities for southern Albertans to benefit from.
“It has been a really exciting adventure to be involved in this project,” said Coaldale Councillor Bill Chapman.
Chapman has been advocating for the project for several years now as the president of the Highway 3 Twinning Association.
“Coaldale is a prominent entity in terms of the agri-food industry, so we can expect to see the twinning of Highway 3 magnify our already solid economic position.”
In addition to twinning, the province said there will be key intersection improvements, including at Highway 877 at Grassy Lake.
– With files from Global News’ Caley Ramsay