The Government of Alberta has announced that it will expedite plans to compete the twinning of Highway 63. The highway begins just north of Edmonton, and extends just north of Fort McMurray. It is among the most dangerous places to drive in the country. Between 2001-2005 there were over 1000 collisions resulting in 257 injuries, and 25 fatalities. This lead the Government of Alberta to commit to twinning a 240 kilometer stretch. The project is now projected to be complete in 2016.
While we should applaud the decision to expedite this project, the fact that it has taken so long underscores a deeper problem with infrastructure funding in Canada. Canadians pay gas taxes at the federal and provincial level that are supposed to be used for roads. However, gas taxes disappear into general government revenues (with the exception of the $2 billion federal Gas Tax Fund — which still gives too much discretion to recipient municipalities). This means that some of the money from gas taxes is spent on roads, and some isn’t. But there is no guarantee one way or the other.
Instead of hoping that politicians will choose to spend gas tax money on roads, both the federal government and the provincial governments ought to dedicate every dime of gas taxes towards transportation infrastructure. The US federal government does this by through its Highway Trust Fund. All gas taxes are dedicated directly to roads. Canadian governments should emulate this model. They could always reserve a portion for transit or pedestrian infrastructure, but the bulk of the funds should go directly back into roads. Given the poor state of Canada’s roads, this would be a welcome change.