Staggering progress on 63
I don't travel Highway 63 very often. It's not out of fear, but rather circumstance, the last time being over the Christmas holidays when I white-knuckled it all the way back, driving the final 150 kilometres in the dark, something I swore I would never do again in the winter.
Traveling to Edmonton on Easter Sunday was my first glimpse of highway construction in over three months. The amount of progress was staggering, not to mention the level of activity, even on a statutory holiday. Tree clearing has given way to earth moving and road formation through much of the yet-to-be-twinned stretches. There was even visible progress on a number of bridges what will need to traverse waterways and creeks to seam together this vilified stretch of blacktop from Fort McMurray to the junction of Highway 55 near Grassland.
On the completed twinned stretches, the drive is amazingly peaceful and serene, casting a vision of what our commute to the big city will be like when Highway 63's construction is complete, promised by the government to happen by 2016.
Another major roadway that has seen significant progress is the Anthony Henday freeway almost circumnavigating our capital city. One final stretch on the east side is yet to be completed, but the rest of it offers a remarkable route with wide lanes, great signage and smooth sailing. We drove from Cora Breakfast and Lunch, just off Calgary Trail, and took the Anthony Henday all the way around to 97th Street with absolutely no stops. In fact, the only time our vehicle came to a halt was at the lights near CFB Edmonton. It was remarkable, and absolutely stress-free.
Did we travel farther than had we pierced through the center of the city? Absolutely. However, the absence of inner-city traffic and myriad stops made all the difference in the world in terms of my blood pressure.
Even the drive home to Fort McMurray was nice. Sure, we came across a couple of over-sized loads, but there were enough passing lanes that the delays were minimal, and the driving risks almost none.
Going back to that cold fall day, right around the time of our first snowfall, when politicians, reporters and community leaders gathered on the just completed twinned stretch south of Mariana Lake, many of us had a well ingrained skepticism of government promises about the twinning of our "one road in". But, in my mind, that has changed, thanks to measurable progress and a demonstrable will to "get 'er done".
It appears that more twinned stretches will be opened this year and certainly next. The difficult patches around rivers, creeks and streams will be the final nuts to crack as we look forward to full completion and a luxurious drive to Edmonton in the not-too-distant future.
To all the talented and hard-working men and women behind the wheels of the tremendous number of heavy machinery crafting Highway 63, we owe you a debt of thanks. For the time you are spending away from your families, working long days, on holidays and weekends, to get this project done, we THANK YOU! You're making tremendous progress and we're behind your efforts one hundred percent.