Alberta Transportation has begun planning for the future twinning of Highway 11 from Highway 781 (Sylvan Lake) to Highway 766 (Eckville).
A date has not been set for construction, as the project is still in the very early planning stages. An open house was held last Wednesday in Benalto Community Hall to provide information for those interested and to receive feedback from the public.
Alberta Transportation spokesperson Trent Bancarz said planning needs to start years before construction. This involves taking into consideration environmental, geotechnical and historical factors, as well as costs.
AMEC Environment & Infrastructure will be conducting the study. AMEC engineer Lou Mak said key areas, such as the Medicine River crossing, have been identified and marked.
The study will primarily focus on current access routes to the highway, and the effects of closing them. All direct access routes to the highway, such as those that lead directly to a residence or farm, will be closed once the twinning takes place.
Alberta Transportation plans to eventually turn Highway 11 into a freeway, for which all intersections will be closed and it will only be possible to access the highway through interchanges, which will be built.
Bancarz said twinning is usually planned for when highways reach a volume of 10,000 vehicles per day. The west end of Highway 11 near Eckville has around 6,500 vehicles per day, and the east end near Sylvan Lake has about 8,500 vehicles per day, according to a project fact sheet.
If traffic becomes too congested, said Bancarz, greater safety concerns can arise as people can become frustrated and attempt to pass when it isn’t safe.
“The two kind of tend to go together,” said Bancarz.
Bancarz said safety, in addition to traffic volume, are among the factors in the decision to twin Highway 11.
The highway has a higher collision rate than the provincial average. According to information displayed at the open house, there were 135.6 collisions per 100 million vehicle kilometres (100M veh-km) on Highway 11, compared with 90.5 collisions per 100M veh-km for the province.