Municipal Gov’t Act changes could speed Highway 3 twinning
Changes to the Municipal Government Act could be just what municipalities need along the Highway 3 corridor to convince the provincial government to finish twinning it.
On Sept. 4, Lethbridge City Council heard from members of the Highway 3 Twinning Development Association for an update on the association’s strategic plan completed in June.
The goal was to update council on plans the association has moving into 2019-20.
Harry Harker, with 1st Principle Consulting, was part of the presentation to council and said the association is looking to renew its mandate and find new ways of creating a wave of interest from outside municipal governments to complete the twinning of Highway 3.
“We’ve undertaken a public engagement process,” he said.
“Working with municipalities, sharing ideas and coming up with a strategic plan that gives the municipalities a really good platform to build on.
“Obviously, the goal is to complete the twinning, but along the way, there needs to be better promotion, better communication of how the twinning can benefit communities.”
“We need to elevate the importance of Highway 3, not only for the city of Lethbridge, but for the entire region of southern Alberta,” said Mayor Chris Spearman following the presentation.
He said the single-lane portions of Highway 3 west of Fort Macleod and east of Taber to Medicine Hat restrict traffic, economic development, and create safety hazards for residents in the area.
“I think many of us can recall some of the horrific accidents that have happened on Highway 3, almost always in the areas that haven’t been twinned yet,” he said. “(There are) significant, serious, safety issues that need to be addressed.”
The association has been focusing on the twinning of the highway for years with limited success.
Safety issues have been identified for both pedestrian and vehicle traffic at a number of locations along the highway that could only be addressed through twinning. Twinning studies for the highway have been taking place since the 1970s.
A cost-benefit analysis done by the University of Lethbridge showed a benefit of 3-to-1 in terms of economic development to capital dollars in the region.
The association has also identified that the lack of twinning has had an impact on growth in southern Alberta.
Harker said there is a unique opportunity, from a policy perspective, since the provincial government amended the Municipal Government Act.
Intermunicipal Collaborative Frameworks and Intermunicipal Development Plans are now adopted policies for municipal governments.
“If every municipality in the Highway 3 corridor adopted supporting statements in their frameworks and in their plans, that’s an incredibly powerful statement that has never been there before for the municipalities to use,” said Harker.
“I think it’s very important we get that kind of unanimity in terms of the statements. But also, we look for new partners, and finding ways of getting industry and post-secondary education involved to broaden the base of support for this.”
Spearman said the highway creates an economic development multiplier when there is sufficient infrastructure for transportation in place.
“It encourages other businesses to build here, and they can get access to markets,” he said. “Transportation infrastructure can flow smoothly down the road.”
“Businesses in the city ship east and west, and people in the city travel for recreation purposes east and west. Highway 3 is a benefit to everyone in the city at some time, and we need to make sure Highway 3 is a viable choice.”