CALGARY -- A vital link through southern Alberta is expected be upgraded in a major construction project set to begin sometime next year.

The Highway 3 twinning project is aimed at improving safety, support the agri-business sector and spur economic growth in the province.

The work is part of the UCP government's $10-billion economic recovery program which also includes capital spending, maintenance and renewal projects, infrastructure and utility upgrades as well as a boost in funding for the Keystone XL pipeline.

"We need to build, diversify and create jobs following the largest financial hit in Alberta’s history. These projects lay the foundation for the private sector to create thousands of well-paying jobs for workers while creating many spinoff benefits for Alberta — including making communities more attractive to businesses looking to relocate. A strong highway network is vital to create jobs, spur economic growth and get Alberta back on track to economic recovery and growth," Premier Jason Kenney said in a release.

The project will twin a 46 km stretch of Highway 3, between Taber and Burdett. Officials say the route serves as a major connector between Saskatchewan and British Columbia south of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Alberta's Minister of Transportation Ric McIver says the work will help support Alberta's agri-food sector.

"That’s why we are investing in critical infrastructure that creates jobs now and ensures that we can support the growth of this important sector," he said. "Twinning Highway 3 makes the roads safer, more efficient, and gets Albertans working when jobs are needed most."

Highway 3 Twinning Development Association president Bill Chapman said the organization is grateful for the announcement, and will stay focused on moving those parts of the project forward.

"There’s some really critical demands, particularly in this area of the province, from Taber to Burdett that can be answered today."

Chapman said the group will eventually want to see the entire 224 kilometres between Medicine Hat and the Crowsnest Pass get done, but understands that’s a long-term process.

"We’ve been talking about this for years and if there’s any place that the government would start, we would certainly embrace that spot."

Bow Island mayor Gordon Reynolds said the increasing agricultural and commercial traffic in recent years has put a lot of pressure on the highway.

"It isn’t just about the trucks. It’s about the equipment moving up and down the highway. Traffic backs up and then it gets unsafe."

Taber mayor Andrew Prokop said the impact from improving the highway will be huge.

"I don’t think you can say enough about the economic benefit and growth that’s going to occur here."

While communities along Highway 3 have been lobbying the government for funding it was not on the list of projects approved by Alberta Transportation. That changed when the government began considering projects that could move forward quickly under the government’s economic recovery program.

"We have made a deliberate choice to expand our capital budget, to address the economic crisis that we are living through," said Premier Kenney. "We have been grinding hard to find projects that will add to our overall economic growth, productivity and diversification. This meets all of the criteria."

The work is expected to begin in 2021 and is scheduled to take three years to complete.

Highway 3 sees approximately 3,900 vehicles per day, the province says.