Road widening threatens Banff Nature Park

07 August 2008

A proposal to widen a dangerous two-lane stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park has been questioned by environmental campaigners, according to local press reports.

The CA$ 100 million (US$ 95.5 million) proposal, announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is designed to make travelling along the 14 km stretch "safer and more efficient".

Several environmental groups have expressed concern over whether the Conservative government is sacrificing the park's ecological integrity in favour of getting traffic through quickly and bolstering economic ties between Alberta and British Columbia.

Nigel Douglas, conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association, was quoted as saying, "Is the priority to get traffic through fast or is it to get traffic through with minimal effects on wildlife? This is not just any old section of the Trans-Canada Highway."

Banff is one of Canada's most popular parks and traffic has been increasing in recent years and so has the number of accidents between the park and the British Columbia boundary. The highway has an accident rate 17 times as high as the Alberta average.

Parks Canada has so far recommended twinning 33 km of the highway through the Rockies from Castle Junction to the British Columbia boundary. The first phase of work - a 9 km-long section east of Lake Louise costing CA$ 87 million (US$ 83 million) - is expected to be completed later this year.

Clearing work on the 14 km-long section west of Castle Junction will start later this year. Road construction should start in early 2009 and Parks Canada expects to it will be complete by late 2012.


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