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Regional Strategic Transportation Plan Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo


The key economic engines in Alberta’s Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo are oil sands development, gas processing, forestry, and tourism activities. The Municipality’s rapid growth in the past few decades has been mainly driven by large scale investments in oil sands projects; this growth has resulted in significant pressure on the Municipality’s transportation network. Additionally, some rural communities surrounding Fort McMurray do not have access to an all-weather road network. Oil sands activity around the Municipality is increasing the need for more direct connections between these regions to ease the movement of goods, equipment, and people. The Municipality is currently experiencing a variety of development pressures. The Municipality’s 2008 population was approximately 103,000 people and is expected to nearly double to 204,000 people by 2028. This population forecast is based on construction and operation employment activities associated with future oil sands and other resource-based industry projects. Ongoing improvement and expansion of the Regional Municipality’s transportation network is vital to sustaining this anticipated growth. The Regional Strategic Transportation Plan addressed long-term transportation system requirements within the municipality. This study addressed required improvements to the existing regional transportation network and made recommendations for new connections that will allow the municipality to achieve its full potential as a major economic contributor in Canada. This study investigated the improvement of other transportation modes throughout the municipality, including transit, air, and water travel to resolve forecast congestion concerns. In addition to upgrading the region’s main highway through Fort McMurray, the study recommends a bypass highway to carry additional traffic around the Fort McMurray Urban Service Area. With rapid growth in oil sands development, the number of vehicle trips between the Urban Service Area and plant sites has increased dramatically; additional oil sands projects coupled with increased production rates at existing sites will require innovative solutions. The study recommends a mass public transportation system to reduce traffic congestion, road expansion, and green house gas emissions. To enhance northern rural communities’ development and to increase social ties, the study recommends an allweather road be constructed north, east, and west of Fort McMurray to service connectivity to surrounding areas.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Sumon Khan
Bryan Petzold
Transportation planning