As early as next Monday, Gaetz Avenue bridge that connects to the QEII south of the city, will be closed for two years as a long awaited redesign of the major traffic artery begins.
The QEII/Gaetz Avenue interchange improvement project, designed to improve traffic flow and safety, involves removing three bridges and building five new bridges. It is expected to be completed by the fall of 2018.
Mayor Tara Veer said both Red Deer city and county have been waiting for years for the provincial government to fund the new interchange to address significant safety concerns.
“It’s become known as the ‘infamous traffic weave’ and is one of the most unsafe components of the highway in the province,” Veer said on Monday about the merging of high speed QEII traffic and lower speed local traffic.
“Particularly as Red Deer County has become more urbanized, the amount of traffic between the two municipalities was considered to be unsafe.”
She said the city wanted the province to begin construction soon for the 20,000 Canadians who will visit the city during the 2019 Canada Winter Games. The city is now optimistic a significant portion of the interchange will be completed prior to the games.
Southbound traffic heading to the QEII will be detoured starting Sept. 26 — weather permitting — to the 19th Street and Hwy 2A (Taylor Drive) exit to the access the highway.
Temporary traffic signals will be installed at the Hwy 2A (Taylor Drive) interchange ramp to accommodate additional traffic flow.
The Gaetz Avenue bridge will be closed for the duration of the project to remove the bridge, build a new bridge and realign that section of QEII.
The Alberta Transportation plan to upgrade the major interchange will create a single lane northbound exit from the QEII that will ultimately provide three lanes into the city – two lanes northbound onto Gaetz Avenue and one lane onto 19th Street and Taylor Drive.
Improved access will also hopefully encourage the millions of Albertans driving by Red Deer to come into the city, said Veer.
“Obviously construction impacts in the short term will be substantial. Council was very deliberate in our request of the provincial government that they work with local businesses in particular in order to help minimize construction impacts,” Veer said.
Julie MacIsaac, Alberta Transportation spokesperson, said Flatiron Construction was awarded the contract in June and an estimated 300 people will be employed for the job over the three construction seasons.
She said work will continue into the fall as long as weather allows, probably into early November, with some bridge work around Hwy 2A and Taylor Drive continuing into December. Work will resume next spring when weather permits.
Motorists can expect some delays during construction, but two lanes in each direction will remain open on the QEII during the day with a reduced speed limit, and access to businesses in Gasoline Alley East and Gasoline Alley West will be maintained.
Other interchange construction planned for the fall includes:
-Excavation in the median between Gaetz Avenue and Taylor Drive along the new QEII alignment.
-Gaetz Avenue centre pier and support piling construction.
-Bridge work on Taylor Drive, including water drainage installations, support installations, and mechanically stabilized earth wall construction. The work will require lane closures on Taylor Drive.
-Utility work has already begun and will continue throughout the fall.
For up to date information on construction and traffic impacts, visit 511.alberta.ca or @511Alberta and @ABTransComm and search #hwy2gaetz on Twitter. Details on the project can be found at www.hwy2gaetz.com.