Alberta’s Highway 881

About Alberta’s Highway 881

Ten years ago, Highway 881 was a gravel road. It was fully paved in 2006 and today, along with Highway 63, Highway 881 is one of two major routes serving Alberta’s oil sands region. It serves both the many rural communities in the rapidly growing Athabasca oil sands area and the bourgeoning municipality of Fort McMurray.

Highway 881 is actually two separate sections that both run south-north. The first section of Highway 881 stretches from Hardisty, through St. Paul and up to Highway 55. The second section runs from Lac La Biche to Highway 63, just south of Fort McMurray. Traversing 482 kilometres of central-northern Alberta, Highway 881 passes through several rural communities in the heart of the Boreal Forest Region. This causes severe weather hazards and significant driver danger from the presence of abundant wildlife as well as heavy oil sands and agricultural equipment that often use this route.

Although it does not experience the same volume of traffic as Highway 63, Highway 881 often becomes the detour when there is a road closure or significant accident on Highway 63 and it does see a significant amount of accidents and fatalities. Between 2006 and 2010 alone, there were 3339 accidents on Highway 881 and Highway 63 resulting in 99 fatalities. However, preparing for the road conditions and practicing safe driving habits can eliminate much of the potential for accidents on Highway 881.

There are no immediate plans to twin the highway, but there is a commitment made by the Government of Alberta to improve the conditions of Highway 881 over the next few years.