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'Pray for me, I drive 63': Protesters call for widening of deadly Alberta highway

Protesters hold signs at a rally in Fort McMurray, Alta. Saturday, May 5, 2012.


A convoy of buses was used at a rally to help persuade the Alberta government to move more quickly on improvements to an Alberta highway that was the scene of a horrific crash last week.

Organizers say each bus at Saturday's rally represented one of the seven victims who died in the two vehicle-crash on Highway 63. An eighth bus was added for the unborn child of one of the victims.

The woman who was carrying the child was an employee of Diversified Transportation, the company that supplied the buses.

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People who attended the rally called for the province to speed up plans to twin the highway, which is the main route between Edmonton and the oil sands capital of Fort McMurray.

"There were a couple of speeches that moved people to tears. I know I was crying," said rally organizer Nicole Auser.

"We're still a community in mourning. It's really fresh and really raw. We all know it could've been any one of us on that highway because we all travel on it so often," she added.

Media reports put the turnout for the rally in the hundreds.

The province announced in 2006 that it was going to twin the 240-kilometre stretch of road, but only a handful of kilometres have been constructed so far.

Musicians at the rally performed songs they composed about the tragedy, and the mother of a man killed on the highway on New Year's Eve also spoke. There was also an e-mail that was read from a man who survived the most recent tragedy, who is recovering in hospital in Edmonton.

Many of the people at the rally carried signs that said, "Pray For Me, I Drive 63."

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"It was very quiet when people spoke. You looked around and there were people wiping tears from their eyes," said Carl Longe, a Fort McMurray resident who attended the rally.

Mr .Longe said he's had to stop to help at accidents on the highway a number of times, and noted that every time he drives it he sees something that scares him.

Anne Kendall of Diversified Transportation said drivers with the bus company also see the tragedies and the near misses, which she said is why it was important for the company to be a part of the rally.

Ms. Kendall said that when members of her own family are on the highway, she gets them to text her every hour to assure her they're alright.

"You breath a sigh of relief," Ms. Kendall said.

Premier Alison Redford has said she will ask her new transportation minister, after cabinet is sworn in, to make twinning Highway 63 a priority.

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