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Hwy 791 upgrading dropped from province’s plan

A project to upgrade a highway in Red Deer County that was counted on to ease congestion on a local service road has been dropped from the province’s three-year plan.

The $16.4-million project was first announced in 2010 and involved extending Hwy 791, which currently ends at Hwy 590, eight km east of Innisfail, where the road continues north as an unpaved route.

Mayor Jim Wood was not surprised by the delay given the cuts the province is making to its budgets.

“I do feel some confidence it will happen in the future, but there’s a reality right now that the province has a huge deficit and they’re trying to figure out how they are going to handle it.”

Wood said paving the route is important to county residents who must now use an unpaved service road running next to Hwy 2.

“That road cannot handle the traffic,” he said.

The county has been talking to Alberta Transportation about getting some funding to help with the cost of maintaining the service road, which is now seeing about 600 vehicles a day, or cash to improve Hwy 791.

Wood said upgrading Hwy 791, which extends as far south as a connection west of Airdrie, also serves as a useful alternate route if Hwy 2 is closed.

Alberta Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Beasley Hosker confirmed that the project was no longer in the three-year plan, but it remains on the books.

“Nothing has really changed in terms of the scope of the project and the work that was committed to,” said Beasley Hosker.

“We actually haven’t acquired all of the land that is required for this project. So, there is still a fair amount of front-end work to do.”

About $1.9 million has been spent on the project so far, much of that spent on buying the necessary land.

“I can tell you work continues on the project.”

The plan to upgrade the highway includes putting in a curve to replace a right angle where the road jogs east 1.6 km.

A flyover across Hwy 2 at Old Pole Road, about five km north of Innisfail, is also still in the works, although it is no longer in the three-year plan.

“The projects are still on the books to be done and we are moving forward with them, but perhaps not as quickly as we had originally hoped,” she said.

pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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