Alberta starts $1.4B highway construction season amid labour shortage, rising fuel costs

Construction crews work on a bridge near Devon, Alberta on May 27, 2022 (Dave Mitchell/CTV News Edmonton).

The province officially started or resumed work on 300 highway projects Friday – worth a total of $1.4 billion – but a shortage of workers and the high cost of materials will have an impact.

"We'll get it done, but it won't be without challenge," said Ron Glen, CEO of Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association.

It's hard to hire heavy construction workers in Alberta at the best of times, Glen said, but this year it's worse. He also said fuel costs, in particular, will affect project price tags.

"So these are challenges that we're going to have to meet and work with our partners in the owner group, whether it's Alberta Transportation or municipalities to make sure the risk of these input costs are shared."

At a morning announcement, Alberta officials estimated highway projects will create a total of 12,000 jobs.

They expect to finish three major projects by fall: the twinning of Highway 19 near Devon, the twinning of Highway 15 near Fort Saskatchewan which includes a new bridge, and a bridge deck replacement in Peace River.

“We are building and maintaining the important infrastructure that makes Alberta a strong and vibrant place to live, raise a family and grow a business," said Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney.

"I would also like to stress that while this work is going on, drivers need to be patient as they obey signs and speed reductions while driving through a construction zone.”

The 2022 budget includes $789.4 million in capital projects for roads and bridges.

There is also $597 million for highway repaving, bridge construction and bridge deck maintenance.