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  Home>> History>> Prosperity and Decline: 1947-1980>> Roads and Highways

Roads and Highways

West Edmonton MallAt the turn of the 20th century, the horse was the main mode of transportation in Alberta. In fact, in 1921 the equine population in Alberta totaled 806,000 animals.

The first cars that arrived in Alberta were powered by steam. The first gasoline powered engines were developed at the end of the 19th century, but they were not popularized until the early 20th century when Henry Ford began producing automobiles on the production line. This increased the speed of production and reduced the cost of each vehicle. With affordable cars available, many Albertans were purchasing them.

By 1906, there were 41 vehicles in the province and the government of Alberta passed the Automobile Act. It set the speed limits at 10 miles per hour in towns and 20 miles per hour outside city limits. The government set a budget of half a million dollars for roads and bridges.

In 1936, the Alberta government developed a five-year plan to place hard surface on one thousand miles of highway because it was clear that the number of vehicles in Alberta had increased significantly, reaching 100,000 by 1937.

The Second World War made necessary the improvement of many of Alberta's roads. Roads and airfields were rapidly built or improved to support the large number of facilities in Alberta for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). Alberta was also host to the building of the Alaska Highway, which was initiated by the United States because of the threat of a Japanese invasion of Alaska. The highway was built between Edmonton and Fairbanks, Alaska along a line of existing airfields, traditional trails, and winter roads.

In 1948, the Trans-Canada Highway Act legislated the construction of a highway that would stretch east and west across Canada. It was opened in 1962, and the work was complete in 1965. The Trans-Canada Highway is recognized as the world's longest continuous highway in the world with a total length of 7,511 kilometres.

Today, Alberta has one of the best road and highway systems in Canada, providing the transportation corridors needed for strong economic growth.


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