Highway 61 construction delays frustrating area residents

By Leah Murray
May 24, 2017 - 4:58pm Updated: May 24, 2017 - 7:08pm

 

MEDICINE HAT, AB — Highway 61 between Etzikom and Foremost is described in the following terms by those who use it: Narrow, filled with cracks, bumps, and decades of patches, with dangerously sharp shoulders.

The Alberta Government began looking into remediation work for the highway back in 2006.

In September of 2016 the province began the estimated $10 million dollar project to realign, widen and repave 15 kilometres of the highway to the West of Etzikom.

Work came to a sudden stop in October of last year after the NDP made changes to environmental regulations meaning a new permit was required.

“We were notified in October 2016 that a new water act approval was necessary in the project, and so we had to stop work in order to get that permit,” said Julie MacIsaac, spokesperson for Alberta Transportation.

For those living in the area, the delays have been frustrating.

“That’s been a very tough pill to swallow for so many people,” said agrologist Jenny Seward. “We've seen it start, we've seen the beginning stages of it and that it's going to get better, and then nothing.”

Several pieces of heavy equipment litter the area where parts of the new roadway are being put in.

Cypress – Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes said he believes this will only add to the project's $10 million price tag.

“Millions of dollars of equipment has been sitting between Foremost and Etzikom since last September first approximately,” he said. “I'm sure that cost will be passed back to the taxpayer.”

Government officials were unable to provide an estimate for how much more the project will cost and said that will depend on when work resumes.

The new environmental permits were only submitted this May and MacIsaac said the Transportation Ministry is hopeful it will be approved.

“The application is with Alberta Environment and Parks and they're currently reviewing it and we're hoping to get back started work this summer,” she said.

The province said a new completion date will depend on when the Highway 61 construction resumes.

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