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New transportation minister Sawhney visits Fort Macleod

rajan sawhney
Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Roger Reid and Fort Macleod Mayor Brent Feyter met last week at Tim Hortons to discuss the highway realignment and other local issues.

Fort Macleod’s mayor urged Alberta’s new transportation minister last week to move ahead with stage 1A of the highway realignment.

Mayor Brent Feyter made the case to Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney to realign the east entrance to Fort Macleod in the interests of safety and economic development.

“It’s designed, ready to go,” Feyter said of the $9-million Stage 1A project. “It’s the only shovel-ready project in southern Alberta.”

“It’s not a big project but it would be a game changer in terms of access and flow into the east end of town.”

The Stage 1A project would bring the east- and west-bound lanes of Highway 3 together beginning at about the turn-off to Bouvry Exports into Fort Macleod.

That would eliminate the shift into a single lane of traffic for westbound vehicles heading into town.

The shift would provide access to land the Town of Fort Macleod could prepare for highway commercial development.

“Right now we can’t access that land for any kind of development,” Feyter said.

Feyter, Sawhney and Livingstone-Macleod MLA Roger Reid met at Tim Hortons in Fort Macleod the morning of Aug. 3.

Sawhney was named transportation minister July 8, having previously served as minister of community and social services.

“One of the first things I wanted to do was learn the portfolio, and the only way you can do that is actually getting out and talking to people,” Sawhney said.

“I’ve got big binders full of information, but this meeting I just had with the mayor was very fruitful because when you hear the issues and the realities at the ground level you actually understand the situation a little bit better.”

The MLA for Calgary-North East was surprised when Premier Jason Kenney asked her to take on the new role.

“I was very invested in my previous portfolio — community and social services — because it was such an important portfolio during the pandemic.”

It didn’t take long for Sawhney, who has a degree in  economics and political science and who worked in oil and gas for 20 years, to get excited about the transportation portfolio.

“It’s all about economic recovery, and building, and revitalization,” Sawhney said. “I’m very excited to be a part of that.”

Sawhney said the work the transportation department does across Alberta means jobs, improved infrastructure, and development of economic corridors.

“All of that is very exciting because it means that we are on the way to recovery,” Sawhney said.

Sawhney said the chance to meet elected municipal officials, their staff and community members across Alberta is another benefit to the job.

Sawhney got a chance to do that last week with stops in Fort Macleod, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.

Sawhney said while the province’s capital budget has limitations, there is new money available through a $1.9-billion federal investment in the national trade corridor program.

“I’m going to see what we can do to get some of those funds back into the province,” Sawhney said. “There’s ways to be creative, and ways to be pushy. If there are some very important projects that need attention, I will see what I can do with my government colleagues.”

Reid said cabinet ministers are anxious to get into ridings outside of Edmonton now that pandemic health restrictions are lifted.

“We’re trying to make up for some lost time and make those connections again with everyday Albertans post-pandemic,” Reid said.

Reid said transportation is a major concern across the Livingstone-Macleod riding, with Highway 3 twinning, bridge and road maintenance and other projects all demanding attention.

Getting cabinet ministers into his riding helps Reid make the case for project funding.

“To come down and meet the people is really helpful when they have to make decisions,” Reid said. “For someone like Minister Sawhney who is new to the portfolio, to jump in and do these kind of meetings to help her get up to speed as soon as possible is really important.”

Brent Feyter and council are hopeful the Stage 1A project remains front of mind for Sawhney when she returns to Edmonton.

“I’ve been pushing for it, council has been pushing for it,” Feyter said. “We’re just hoping they will find a little bit of money somewhere to make it happen.”

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