CALGARY -- The first shovels in the ground mark the beginning of a massive highway project aimed at improving connections north of Calgary.

The new overpass and interchange will join the QEII Highway with 40th Avenue south of the city of Airdrie, allowing better traffic flow in all directions.

It's also a project to help kickstart the economy through the creation of approximately 490 jobs.

The province is investing $46.5 million in funding as part of the province's overall capital projects budget of $10 billion, while the City of Airdrie is picking up the rest of the cost.

According to the province, approximately 85,000 vehicles drive on the stretch of highway between Calgary and Airdrie each day. That includes about 7,000 commercial vehicles.

The project is meant to help provide infrastructure jobs during a difficult time amid the pandemic and weakened economy.

Alberta's transportation minister says this project will help people get where they need to go much faster.

"Building the interchange will make it safer for everyone," said Ric McIver, who is also Alberta's interim minister of municipal affairs. "From daily commuters, to truck drivers.

"It will help reduce congestion in and around Airdrie and support the continued economic growth."

Work expected to begin right away with realigning a creek on the east side of the highway, before moving to grading the slope on the west side.

The overpass and interchange are scheduled to be complete by fall 2023.