On Jan. 6, a gigantic ‘splitter,’ captured national attention as it began its slow journey from the Dacro Industries yard in
southeast Edmonton to the Industrial Heartland outside Fort Saskatchewan. Weighing 820 tonnes and measuring 96 metres, the giant conical piece of petrochemical equipment was the largest load to ever traverse Alberta’s highways.
Described in various ways – as heavy as eight blue whales, the size of a CFL football field, six-times as large as Caterpillar’s largest mining truck used in the oil sands – the super load took four days to carefully travel the 125-km. route using the full width of an entire two-lane road, including the shoulder.
The successful delivery of the splitter was the first in three separate moves of massive pieces of equipment from Edmonton to the Heartland Industrial Complex between January and February.
These super load moves are possible because of Alberta’s high load corridor – a network of provincial roads and highways built to withstand the transport of extremely heavy loads.
A study conducted by the Alberta government found improvements are needed to the existing high load corridor over the next two decades to give industry a more efficient way to move large loads, like construction and oil rig equipment.
The study recommends $1.6 billion in investments that would expand the corridor from 6,500 km. to 10,000 km. and would include bridge strengthening, pavement widening and creating staging and rest areas.
The high load corridor has evolved over the last three decades. About 150,000 oversized/overweight permits are issued each year in Alberta.
New rules for Alberta highway construction zones
The Alberta government has introduced new rules to ensure highway workers stay safe, while allowing motorists to efficiently navigate through construction zones.
Contractors are now required to cover speed reduction signage in a construction zone when no workers are present and if there are no safety hazards.
The new rules will also limit the distance of highway lane closures, require signs leading to construction zones to be consistent and allow longer transition zones for drivers to slow down.
Speed reductions will continue to be enforced to protect highway workers and the travelling public. Speed fines will continue to be doubled when highway workers are present.
Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason said the new measures are being introduced to strike a balance between safety and the efficient flow of traffic through construction zones. The Minister added, “One of the major complaints we hear every year is that reduced speed limits are enforced when it’s obvious no work is occurring at the construction site. These changes will make sure our construction workers are safe as they build our roadways, while also helping commuters spend less time in traffic.”
Contractors will have more stringent requirements to manage construction zones and will face stiffer financial penalties for non-compliance.