Proposed changes to Hwy 2 intersection worry residents

Plans to fix one of the more dangerous intersections left on Hwy 2 didn’t sit well with some Lacombe County residents upset a key access route to town would be cut off. While many agreed the Duckett Road and Hwy 2 intersection just north of Lacombe was a hazard, there was less agreement about what to do about it.

Plans to fix one of the more dangerous intersections left on Hwy 2 didn’t sit well with some Lacombe County residents upset a key access route to town would be cut off.

While many agreed the Duckett Road and Hwy 2 intersection just north of Lacombe was a hazard, there was less agreement about what to do about it.

Alberta Transportation is proposing the intersection be eliminated and traffic diverted to roads on the west side of the highway.

Some rural residents argue removing Duckett Road as a route into town will add miles to every drive and also mean longer journeys for emergency services.

Peter Prins, who farms northwest of Lacombe, wants to see the Duckett Road access point turned into a proper interchange with on and off ramps — or at the very least an overpass, carrying traffic across the highway into Lacombe. The province’s road options are not the answer as far as he concerned.

“This way, I have to drive 10 miles of gravel instead of two,” he said, as he stood before a map showing proposed service roads. It’s a trip he might make four to six times a week depending on what is going on in town.

“What I don’t understand is why don’t they come up with a plan that makes people happy,” he said.

The cost of interchanges or overpasses has been raised as a key consideration by planners. But that’s what they said more than 40 years ago when they should have built the overpass, he said.

Adding distance to the journeys could cost landowners in less direct ways than higher gasoline bills. If it takes longer for emergency crews to reach rural homes property insurance costs could go up. “Insurance companies look at that.”

A number of those who attended the information session at Lacombe County Council chambers want to see some sort of overpass, said Councillor Keith Stephenson, who was joined by Councillors Ken Wigmore and Cliff Soper at the open house.

“These situations are always complicated,” said Stephenson. “Some people are going to have more traffic by their doors and they’re not going to be too happy.

“Without an overpass, I don’t know what the other solutions are. It’s going to inconvenience people, no doubt about it.”

But something has to be done, he said. “We can’t have people crossing that highway. It’s too dangerous.”

Alberta Transportation’s Brian Reid said the Duckett Road intersection is one of the last on Hwy 2 with such high traffic volumes.

“Because of that it’s becoming an operational concern,” said Reid, infrastructure manager for the central region.

The most viable options depend largely on funding and other operational issues. Building another interchange at Duckett Road would be costly and place three interchanges on a short stretch of highway.

Building service roads would cost an estimated $11 million, far less than $24.9 million bill for an overpass. A overpass would cost an estimated $14 million. However, building the overpass alone would still leave area residents without a connection to Hwy 2.

Reid said how quickly work will proceed will depend on provincial budgets, although upgrading Hwy 2 to a freeway is considered a priority.

“It is the backbone of the province.”

The province must also negotiate with the county on cost sharing. GENIVAR Consultants staff were at the meeting and will be finalizing recommendations and preparing preliminary designs.

The project is part of the province’s Access Management Study, which began in 2006 to improve safety along the highway.

Alberta Transportation is also looking at locations for a major rest stop similar to the one near Airdrie. An existing pull-out near the former Grumpy’s Restaurant is to be closed.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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