By Cole Parkinson
With the good news of Highway 3 being twinned east of Taber, construction can’t start soon enough but concerns around future highway development bypassing the town of Taber are still circling.
In the original 2019 study done by Stantec Consulting to complete the twinning of Highway 3 from Taber to Burdett, the study also highlighted a future plan to create a freeway on Highway 3 between the B.C. border and Medicine Hat. This new freeway would create a south route that would completely bypass Taber’s downtown core, which at the time had Taber town council bring forward concerns around the lack of cars going through town.
While the newest announcement moves forward with the study to twin past Taber to Burdett, no plans of bypassing the town have been brought forward since.
“There was some long-range potential plans to do that but certainly in the exploratory stages, they were talking 20 or 30 years down the road, if it happens. You can appreciate the magnitude of what is involved in doing that in that particular project,” said Mayor Andrew Prokop. “They’ve done it elsewhere and that’s been kind of the Alberta mandate to make it easier and make it a choice if someone wants to turn into the municipality or go around it. For us, obviously, we weren’t so keen on that idea because we’ve got so much highway business frontage that we felt it would affect negatively in so many ways. But the province looks at that in the bigger picture. They are looking at the whole scope, not just the town of Taber or other municipalities in similar situations.”
When the plan had detailed plans to bypass the town of Taber, councillors had pointed to other nearby municipalities who weren’t scheduled to be bypassed.
“As an example, they had no plans to do that around Coaldale so that was what we were using as a benchmark close in our own backyard. If that is something the province is set on doing going forward, we can certainly have our input and state our case as best as we can but ultimately if that is what the province and Alberta Transportation decides to do, that is likely what is going to happen. I certainly don’t agree with it but there is a lot of study and exploration that has to be done before it gets to that stage,” continued Prokop. “All things considered, a lot of things can change in 20 or 30 years. When it first came out, it was assumed it was going to happen in a couple of years but there is so much involved that it is far from a done deal. People certainly have the right to voice their concerns.”
Even with this potentially not affecting the Taber area for several decades, Prokop pointed to the fact anyone who was in disagreement with the bypass of the town should start speaking out now.
“Ideally, whether it’s that far down the road or not, we should be speaking out now. I encourage people to speak to their local municipality elected leaders and/or MLAs to say just that. That is what helps change things.”