Sutherland: A road paved with a horrible game plan

Queen Elizabeth 2 is one of the busiest highways in Canada and it runs right by Red Deer.

QE2 extends from the Alberta/U.S. border, runs north to Grande Prairie, and carries about 50,000 vehicles every day in the Red Deer area alone.

I have driven this highway for many decades and watched as it morphed into a crowded bumper-to-bumper race track populated by too many moronic drivers. The highway has gotten much busier over the years, and it has become much worse in terms of safety.

Nowhere is this safety problem more evident than right here in Central Alberta. It’s hard to believe that we still have a few level crossings on this freeway, including one on the north side of Antler Hill.

However, the most critical issue on QE2 in the Central Alberta corridor is the lack of lanes. I firmly believe the entire Calgary-Edmonton stretch needs to be at least three lanes each way, but more lanes have become absolutely essential between Innisfail and Ponoka.

Instead we are forced to witness horrible planning at its finest whenever upgrades are done to overpasses or bridges, and it becomes painfully obvious that even the newest ones were only built for four lane highways. This kind of vision for the future makes we wonder if Moe, Larry and Curly finally found steady employment in Alberta’s road planning department.

A lot of Red Deer drivers use the QE2 as a north-south commuter route to avoid the traffic issues in the city where a combination of too many stop lights and horrible drivers make city driving a nightmare worth avoiding whenever possible.

The net result is dangerously high traffic congestion on the QE2 in the Red Deer corridor. A high speed roadway bursting at its seams is a recipe for disaster and we have plenty of horrific evidence about what happens when too many incompetent drivers are forced into an unruly pack on an inadequate highway.

The QE2 has been repaved many times over the years and one of the byproducts of crown paving (resurfacing) is the loss of shoulders on the highway. The shoulders have shrunk to a point where these critical freeway necessities have barely enough room for a disabled or emergency vehicle to leave the flow of traffic and avoid a sideswipe while parked.

Some people are delusional enough to believe that a high speed rail service between Calgary and Edmonton would solve the problem on QE2. In reality, a high speed train between Calgary and Edmonton would cost billions to build and hundreds of millions to subsidize the huge losses.

A bullet train service would be the fastest white elephant in the province, and it would not even put a small dent in the QE2 traffic. Look up the money-hemorrhaging Dayliner for a historical reference point.

We should also change the name back to Hwy 2 and call the Edmonton-Calgary corridor the Calgary and Edmonton Trail to honour its historical roots. Ralph Klein fumbled the ball on this one because Ontario already had a Queen Elizabeth roadway. Klein also fumbled the ball on the Ralph Bucks rebates in 2005 because his $1.4 billion rebate program would have been a great investment in QE2 improvements.

Klein’s antics aside, we are long overdue to transform the QE2 into a six-lane freeway with wide shoulders and that incremental change should start right here in Central Alberta where it could save the most lives.

Jim Sutherland lives in Red Deer

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