Sec. Highway 855 Update

Last Friday I was able to tour 855 and nearby impacted county roads with Athabasca County Councillor Travais Johnson and Deputy Reeve Warren Griffin. I have brought this issue up with Alberta Transportation and would like to provide concerned constituents with an update.

First off, the rumours that Transportation is contemplating any permanent closures on 855 are not true. Highway 855 is temporarily closed just south of Township Road 672A, south of Atmore, for about 700 metres. The area is very wet due to quick snow melt, which made the road impassable.

Transportation is monitoring it with the intent to reopen it to traffic as soon as possible, however they do not have a timeline at the moment. The Inspector was there yesterday and water is still seeping out through to the surface of the roadway. It needs more time to dry out. Attempts to blade the road have made the situation worse.

Thanks to the residents and Councillor Johnson for bringing this to my attention. Hopefully we will get this road open again very soon!

Athabasca Advocate – December 5, 2017 Bad trucks beware

New vehicle inspection station opened on Highway 63

Local dignitaries gathered to celebrate the opening of a new $11-million vehicle inspection station on Highway 63 north of Atmore.

On Dec. 1 government officials gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility, which features advanced equipment for inspecting vehicles that pass through the stretch of highway. The province estimated that about 500,000 commercial vehicles will use the station every year. Executive director of the Coalition for a Safer 63/881 Debbie Hammond said with the amount of traffic the stretch of highway has, the facility was needed.

“There’s absolutely a need to have a state-of-the-art facility that can check commercial vehicles and make sure that they’re safe for the drivers, as well as other road users on the highway,” she said.

The province plans to operate the facility 24/7 and staff it with ten transport officers. The officers will conduct inspections that include checking vehicle equipment, cargo securement and driver credentials. Vehicles that fail inspection are pulled off the road until the issue is resolved, with drivers facing possible fines.

Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette said the facility is needed for the area to ensure traffic safety. “It’s wonderful. This is badly needed for Highway 63 to make sure the commercial traffic coming up and down here is safe,” Piquette said.

“It’s good, and important that we got it.” Piquette added that the facility should reduce the number of accidents in the area and is designed to not have an impact on traffic flow.

“I can see it making it safer. The fewer accidents you have, the better traffic flow you’re going to have and of course, more importantly, the fewer deaths and injuries you’re going to have,” Piquette said.  “If you look at the way it’s designed, the existence of the station itself should not have any impact on the traffic flow.” The facility features a Smart Roadside Inspection System, which uses thermal imaging to identify various problems with commercial vehicles.

North region inspector Dan McCormack said the technology of the station is some of the most advanced in the province, which is a boon for the officers managing the facility. “It’s huge, because we probably prescan thousands of vehicles on a daily basis,” McCormack said. “You only have so many officers working in the province. So having that technology allows them to free up (time for) what they’re doing.”

In another project aimed at improving traffic safety, the province also spent $1.2 billion to twin portions of Highway 63. That project completed in May 2016. Alberta Motor Transport Association vice chair Chris Nash said the facility’s location ensures it can capture the high amount of traffic in the area.

“It is all about safety. If we don’t have facilities like this, our roads they go sideways,” Nash said. “It’s going to create the accountability which is what we’re looking for.”

Joseph Quigley