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Crowsnest Highway in Alberta

Alberta Yellowhead Route #3 Signage

The Alberta portion of the #3 Crowsnest Highway runs for approximately 323 km (201 mi) from the British Columbia border to Medicine Hat, where it connects with the #1 Trans-Canada main route.

2500 year old Burmis Tree in the Crowsnest Pass
It begins in Crowsnest Pass paralleling the Canadian Pacific Railway, first meeting Highway 40 (the Forestry Trunk Road) at Coleman, then running 26 km (16 mi) east through Blairmore, Frank, Bellevue, and Burmis (from west to east), recently amalgamated and collectively known as the Town of Crowsnest Pass, and barely clearing the eastern ranges of the Rockies to the southern terminus of Highway 22, better known as the Cowboy Trail. The Bar U Ranch National Historic site and the towns of Okotoks, High River, and Black Diamond are an hour to the north.

Wind Turbines on a ridge south of Pincher Creek

Highway 6 heads south near Pincher Creek and is the main route to Waterton Lakes National Park on the border with the United States. Approximately 50 km (31 mi) east of Pincher Creek, the highway becomes divided and has an interchange with Highway 2 (north to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump) Calgary and then east for 5 km (3 mi) into the town of Fort Macleod, after which Highway 2 south goes to Standoff, Cardston, and the United States border at Carway.

Fort MacLeod-Fort MacLeod Historical Site (Mark Ruthenberg)
Fort MacLeod-Fort MacLeod Historical Site (Mark Ruthenberg)

From the Highway 2 junction, the #3 Crowsnest Highway its “twinned” and Highway 3 east of Fort Macleod crosses the Oldman River near Monarch. Highway 3 passes Lethbridge’s west side with interchanges for Westview Drive W (to the south) and University Dr W (to the south) and Highway 25, heading north to Picture Butte.

Lethbridge - Elks Recreation Area pathways with Railway Bridge-sliver (Mark Ruthenberg)

Lethbridge – Elks Recreation Area pathways with Railway Bridge-sliver (Mark Ruthenberg)

The Crowsnest Highway now crosses the Old Man River, with the famous High Level Bridge for the railway to the south, Fort Whoop-Up in the valley below the bridge, and the University of Lethbridge campus buildings clinging to the western coulee slopes dropping into the deep river valley.

After Highway 3 crosses the Oldman River into Lethbridge, the freeway segment ends at Mayor Magrath Drive, the junction which marks the northern terminus of Highway 5 (eastern access to Waterton Lakes National Park). The highway then has a junction with Highway 4 (to Milk River and the US border at Sweetgrass, Montana and I-15 heading south).

 

After passing the eastern limit of Lethbridge the highway passes through Coaldale and Taber. At Taber, Highway 36 runs concurrently with Highway 3 for 3 km (2 mi). Highway 36 is a north-south road, running north to Brooks on the main Trans-Canada, and south to Warner, Milk River , Sweetgrass, Montana and I-15 in the US.

The Crowsnest Highway reduces to a two-lane undivided road and passes through a number of small towns including Grassy Lake, and Bow Island before joining the Trans-Canada Highway at Medicine Hat.

East of Medicine Hat

In the prairies, the highway forms part of the Red Coat Trail which continues east of Lethbridge into Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Lethbridge - Oldman River riverbank view (Mark Ruthenberg)
Lethbridge - Oldman River riverbank view (Mark Ruthenberg)

Is the Crowsnest Highway in Alberta Twinned?

Most of the road in Alberta is an undivided two-lane highway with a speed limit of 100 km/h (62 mph) outside of rural areas. From Fort Macleod to West Lethbridge and from Coaldale to Taber it is a divided highway (“twinned”) with a speed limit of 110 km/h (68 mph). In Brtish Columbia, NONE of the highway is “twinned” at this time, and there are no annnounced plans to twin the route in that province..

Construction Notes

In November 2022, The Alberta Government announced the start of twinning the Crowsnest Highway #3 through Alberta, with following  long term plan in 8 phases, expected to take 10 years to completion.

PHASEDESCRIPTIONTIMING
Phase 146 kilometres – Highway 3 between Taber and Burdett.Construction is expected to start in 2024.
Phase 210 kilometres – Highway 3X/Coleman Bypass.Functional planning studies have been completed and detailed engineering design will begin in spring 2023.
Phase 315 kilometres – East of Seven Persons to Medicine Hat.Functional planning studies have been completed and detailed engineering design will begin in spring 2023.
Phase 447 kilometres – Blairmore to east of Highway 6 at Pincher Creek.Functional planning studies have been completed and detailed engineering design will begin in 2023.
Phase 528 kilometres – East of Bow Island to east of Seven Persons.Functional planning studies have been completed and detailed engineering design will begin in summer 2023.
Phase 623 kilometres – East of Burdett to east of Bow Island.A functional planning study has been completed and the province will continue to consult with the Town of Bow Island and other stakeholders in order to finalize the alignment.
Phase 738 kilometres – Pincher Creek to west of Fort Macleod.A functional planning study through Piikani Nation is underway and will continue for some time.
Phase 8Eight kilometres – Alberta-BC border to Highway 3X.Continued engagement with BC is necessary to consider alignment with improvements being planned through the BC portion

In addition to the Taber to Burdett stretch, the province will proceed with a request for proposals for the remaining seven phases of the project, the release stated.

Alberta Crowsnest Highway