Highway of Death

Our professor Jeff Gailus grabbed this great picture of the iconic highway’s signage before filling us in on the highway’s background.
Edmonton, AB to Fort McMurray, AB | 270 mi (435 km)

Don’t worry, we’re not dead! The four-and-a-half hour drive just put a few people to sleep. Our bus, though? That was almost a different story.

The “Highway of Death” earned its name, hosting roughly 1,000 fatal crashes between 2001 and 2005. The dramatic increase was tied to the oil sands boom, which increased the volume and size of traffic traveling the highway. The construction to convert it to four-lane road finished in 2016.

We traveled its lanes in our diesel shuttle bus, a  2011 Chevrolet Express 3500 passenger bus.  I was behind the wheel, and it was a small chime, an orange engine graphic, a display reading “ENGINE POWER IS REDUCED,” that let me know something was wrong. I’ll admit, I panicked a little when the bus slowed without my help.

Luckily, the light and 45 mph (72 kmh) handicap disappeared after a short stop followed by a drive. We made it to Fort McMurray, and have an appointment with a mechanic 7:30 Tuesday morning. Turns out it’s a long holiday weekend in Canada.

The group’s still hoping to stick to the schedule and leave Tuesday morning. For now, we’re headed to Original Joe’s Restaurant and Bar. Burgers sound great after a long day in our little shuttle bus.

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