Province’s reversal on Memorial Trail intersection funding welcomed

“It speaks volumes of the importance of this project for the citizens of Sylvan Lake,” said Mayor Susan Samson.

“It speaks volumes of the importance of this project for the citizens of Sylvan Lake,” said Mayor Susan Samson.

That was part of her reaction on learning that Alberta Transportation has reversed a previous decision and has now committed another $1.7 million towards the Memorial Trail project.

The additional cost, above the initial $4.5 million already approved, is necessary for intersection improvements at four locations that were identified as part of a traffic impact assessment. That report identified the need for additional changes and upgrades to intersections at Highway 20 and Memorial Trail, Highway 20 and Highway 11, Highway 11 and 781 and 50th Street and Memorial Trail, to address access and circulation issues created as a result of changes made by the provincial government to the 781 intersection.

At the Highway 20 and Memorial Trail intersection the changes are needed so there’s no need to reduce the 100 km/hr. maximum through that area. The work planned at Highway 11 and 20 will increase safety and make it easier for motorists to proceed through the intersection. At 781 and 11 the plan is to extend the acceleration ramp for traffic heading west from the southbound exit.

Safety was a big part of the town’s pitch when Samson and the town’s chief administrative officer, Betty Osmond, met with Transportation Minister Ric McIver. At a June 20 meeting, they discussed “the town’s concerns over the safety of the road, as well as the responsibility of the province to assist with traffic issues resulting from changes to the intersection at Highways 11 and 781. The message was well received, as the minister made clear during the meeting that the travelling public deserved project success.”

According to a press release yesterday (Wednesday) morning, the province’s previous stance, that it wouldn’t fund the intersection work, meant that improvements to the safety of intersections along the route were in question”.

That’s no longer a question, thanks to the province. All residents should celebrate this decision and the province’s additional commitment to doing the right thing.

We join Samson in expressing pleasure that the project can proceed this season to the full extent of what was envisioned and is needed.

The $1.7 million commitment will be paid half this year and half next year. That indicates the province, which also struggles with finite resources, had to make difficult decisions to keep this project on track.

The decision, we feel, also puts an end to the campaign to have signal lights erected at the Highways 11 and 781 intersection. That’s not going to happen.

The province is moving ahead with a bigger picture in mind. That picture shows the realignment of Highways 20 and 781 so they join and form a continuous north-south route, along with an interchange at the Highway 11 crossing.

Considering construction statistics for Sylvan Lake, which are rebounding, and for the province’s growth where there are projections of another million people in the next 10 years, that vision, which some might call a pipe dream, is probably going to happen sooner than later.

In the meantime, an initial meeting was held last week at Benalto to gather input on proposals for the twinning of Highway 11 from Sylvan Lake to Eckville.

Elsewhere in today’s paper, Transportation communications officer Trent Bancarz said planning needs to start years before construction begins.

The study will primarily focus on current access routes to the highway and the effects of closing them. All direct access routes to Highway 11 will be closed once the twinning takes place, as the province plans for “freeway” status on the important link between Red Deer and the west country.

And at last week’s council meeting there was an obvious interest by developers to get moving quickly on opening up lots in the two quarter sections bordering Memorial Trail between Highway 20 and 50th Street.

Change is taking place, sometimes at a faster pace that we want, but the countryside around Sylvan is certainly going to look different in a few years.

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