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Comprehensive Regional Transportation Infrastructure Planning for the Alberta Oil Sands


Fort McMurray and the Athabasca oil sands regional area have experienced significant growth pressures since the mid 1990’s due to the increasing viability of oil sands development.  Current industry and economic forecasts indicate the potential for increased bitumen production from less than 2 million barrels per day to 6 million barrels per day by the year 2045.  This industry activity will be accompanied by community population growth and significant infrastructure to support this growth.  In planning for this rapid growth, transportation infrastructure was an immediate and vital component to provide for worker transport to the oil sands.  Several transportation options were developed and assessed on an iterative basis including a multi‐modal analysis considering roadways (passenger vehicles and buses), commuter air, heavy commuter rail, and high‐speed rail.  A holistic approach was used considering the full cost to society (i.e. capital, operations & maintenance, user, and environmental).  A dominating factor in each scenario was the user cost (i.e.  travel time and vehicle operation).  The strategy centered on the appropriate investment in transportation infrastructure to move workers to and from site as efficiently and effectively as possible; as well as an investment in new community infrastructure, so as to minimize travel time by reducing the travel distance.  This plan provided an intermodal solution to meet future industry and community travel demands.  In considering the true cost to society, this study demonstrated the link between the economy and transportation infrastructure; and determined that a timely investment in infrastructure was needed to maximize the net economic benefit to society.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Gordon Molnar
Francis Wambugu
Transportation planning