Mayors and reeves in southwestern Alberta want the province to improve Highway 3 to open the area to development.
Fort Macleod Mayor Rene Gendre said last week he met with officials from Crowsnest Pass, Pincher Creek and Coalhurst.
“The four of us got together and said we’ve got a problem,” Gendre said.
Safety and restrictions on commercial and industrial development were the concerns highlighted.
Gendre provided council with an update Feb. 10 on meetings he had with officials from the other communities.
Gendre told council there is a concern the Crowsnest Pass, which Highway 3 is reduced to two lanes, is a bottleneck.
“It’s a bottleneck to our development in the south,” Gendre said.
There are safety concerns in the Crowsnest Pass where 10,000 vehicles travel each day.
Alberta Education does not allow busing within 2 1/2 miles of the school, so students are walking along that busy highway to reach the high school.
The two-lane highway is also an impediment to industrial growth in the Crowsnest Pass.
Coalhurst is diminishing in size because it does not have proper access to Highway 3.
“They need lights, they need a turning lane and they need signs,” Gendre said. “The government looks at it and says (Coalhurst is) diminishing in size, no need funding an interchange on that highway.”
There is concern about safety and access at the turn-off from Highway 3 to Pincher Creek.
The government is hesitant to fund work on the Highway 2 and Highway 3 interchange at Fort Macleod.
Gendre said the province has also decided that since Fort Macleod isn’t growing, there is no point in spending money on an interchange.
“We’re not going to grow if we don’t have the interchange,” Gendre said.
Gendre also said Fort Macleod is being bypassed as people travel north from Lethbridge on Highway 23, then west on Highway 519 to Granum.
Trucking companies also travel to Calgary from Vancouver on the TransCanada Highway, rather than Highway 3.
If Highway 3 is twinned in the Crowsnest Pass, and Fort Macleod gets an interchange, more development would follow.
“If we can get more traffic down to Fort Macleod, we could grow,” Gendre said.
The communities asked the chair of the mayors and reeves caucus if they could pull together some ideas.
Lethbridge MP Greg Weadick supported such an initiative.
The group has contacted Transportation Minister Wayne Drysdale.
“All the focus right now is Edmonton, Calgary and the oilsands,” Gendre said. “We’ve got to get some focus down here.”