When shovels hit the ground to build the new Hwy. 1A-22 interchange there won't be any user fees collected to pay for the construction.

Yesterday, Transportation minister Ric McIver announced the government will be introducing the Financing Alberta’s Strategic Transportation (FAST) Act as a new way of funding transportation projects that otherwise would not be completed for the foreseeable future.

The FAST Act will enable the Alberta government to pay for new or expanded transportation infrastructure by collecting user fees. The legislation explicitly forbids user fees on existing lanes and bridges. There must also be an another-toll-free avenue of transportation available.

Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie says it is aimed at helping Alberta communities to fast-tracking projects. 

He says that was the case with the construction of a new Hwy. 697 bridge over the Peace River to replace the aging La Crete Ferry. A new bridge had not been identified in previous capital plans, however, Mackenzie County and the La Crete Chamber of Commerce have both advocated for the establishment of a user fee to build the new bridge.

"They actually approached the government with this idea, and we didn't have the legislation in place to do it. They convinced the Transportation minister as well as cabinet to use them as the first application for this," says Guthrie.

He also sees it as a way to help create employment and help local economies.

"We're looking at any kind of creative ways that we can to support businesses, to support local communities, and to put people back to work," says Guthrie. "This is one way we can do that."

He says it won't be utilized for projects like the Hwy. 1A-22 interchange.

"That's a fully-funded project. That's already an announced project."

Nor does he foresee other highway projects in the area being completed in this manner.

"We are a highly-populated area when you consider greater Calgary. It's not something that I see on the horizon."

With a pipeline right-of-way agreement in place, the engineering for the interchange is now being finalized. Upon approval of the design, it will go to tender.