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Council to address motion on East Clearwater Highway

Last Updated Jul 3, 2019 at 10:36 am MDT

RMWB Council will hear a motion on the East Clearwater Highway next Monday.

Mayor Scott introduced it at the start of the previous council meeting on June 25, 2019.

If passed, the motion would see the proposed highway as a transportation priority.

Furthermore, the administration would send a letter to provincial and federal levels of government outlining the need for the roadway.

Mayor Scott said the letter would list its benefits such as a shipping lane for dangerous goods, another evacuation route, and a natural firebreak.

The motion will go for first reading on Monday, July 8, 2019.

Evacuation Route

Historically speaking, support from the previous Alberta governments for the East Clearwater Highway was slow in coming.

A former member of the Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee, Marty Giles, helped present the highway proposal to Council after the 2016 wildfire.

“Seeing our friends in northwestern Alberta going through the fires again this year, I’m glad someone is putting this back on the table. To me, it’s the important issue we have in Fort McMurray.”

Council unanimously approved of the East Clearwater Highway proposal in 2017.

Giles adds some current councillors made the roadway part of their election campaigns.

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley made the East Clearwater Highway one of her re-election promises in last April’s provincial election.

However, many asked about whether or not an east-west connector to Grande Prairie is a better option.

“Although that may be nice to have,” Marty Giles said. “What we don’t get with the east-west connector is a dangerous good or truck route that takes everything around our city.”

Giles also argues the connector wouldn’t work if a similar event like the 2016 wildfire occurs.

Instead, he said the East Clearwater Highway would serve as a firebreak and provide emergency crews with another evacuation route.

He also said the new roadway would contribute to downtown redevelopment and lessen travel times to the oilsands.

Giles hopes residents attend next Monday’s meeting and that council approves the motion.

“We filled council chambers the last time this came up. This would totally change the face of our community, so let’s send a message to our friends in legislature in Edmonton, and our friends in Ottawa.”