Province celebrates construction on new Hwy 3 twinning project

In November 2018, then 16-year-old Alexandra Zbaraschuk got into her car and attempted to drive onto Hwy 3 west of Prince Albert.

The last part of that trip she remembers was stalling as she tried to cross the road. When she regained consciousness, Zbaraschuk couldn’t believe she’d been in an accident.

“I remember waking up in the hospital a couple days later wondering ‘why am I here? What is happening?’” she said on Friday. “I just wanted to go drive in my car like a normal kid would. My dad had to convince me that I was in a car accident. I didn’t want to believe him at first.”

Zbaraschuk was t-boned after stalling, and the recovery process has been long and painful. She had to relearn simple tasks like taking a drip of water. Even today, she said, the mental and emotional struggle is still there.

Zbaraschuk said she hopes no other driver has to go through what she did. That’s why on Friday she was out on Hwy 3 west of Prince Albert as construction opened on the new eight kilometre twinning project.

“These (upgrades) are very important for me,” Zbaraschuk said. “I think that there are going to be many lives saved from this twinning of the highway. Personally, I think that no one should have to go through this. It’s unfortunate that many of us have already.”

Zbaraschuk was inspired to speak after hearing a man and his nephew were killed in a collision on the same stretch of highway. If she had her way, she’d twin the highway all the way to Edmonton.

“It would be pretty cool if they could do that,” she said with a quick laugh. “I know it’s a lot of money, but if they could, I think it would be beneficial.”

Provincial highways minister Fred Bradshaw was on hand Friday to oversee the start of construction. Upgrades include a newly twinned section of highway, along with a concrete meridian barrier in the centre, four protected T-intersections, and new lighting throughout the corridor.

Bradshaw said they may look at twinning further sections of Hwy 3, but there are no plans to do so in the immediate future. Instead, they’re going to focus on passing lanes, like the one recently constructed between Shellbrook and the Shell River bridge.

“The passing lanes have proved to be very, very good throughout the province,” Bradshaw said. “We’ve heard everybody talk about how great passing lanes are, and it’s way cheaper to build passing lanes. It’s about 15 per cent of the cost of twinning a highway, so the passing lanes have worked out very well.”

Bradshaw said they decided to twin the stretch of highway just west of Prince Albert because it gets so congested. They also noted a higher number of accidents in the area than on other stretches of road.

If they notice similar trends along the highway, they may consider further twinning projects. For now, however, he’s comfortable with more passing lanes.

“We knew that this was a high accident area,” he explained. “We keep track of accidents across the province, and when you start seeing multiple accidents in one particular area, that’s when you start to say, ‘okay, we’re going to have to do something.’”

Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross said she’s seen first hand how dangerous driving this stretch of highway can be. She said it’s a great blessing drivers like Zbaraschuk survive, but said other drivers shouldn’t have to face similar dangers.

“I was very blessed that I wasn’t in an accident despite some close calls,” Ross said of her own travels down Hwy 3 west of Prince Albert. “I am just very grateful that we’re able to provide that additional safety for people who travel this stretch of highway.”

When asked about increased twinning projects, Ross said more passing lanes were a step in the right direction. However, like Bradshaw, she said they would look at more twinning projects if the need was there.

The cost of the eight kilometre twinning project is around $21.4 million.

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