Red Deer city council gave the green light to expropriating four land parcels needed for the widening of Hwy 11A.
Council was told negotiations have been underway with eight property owners since 2019 to reach a fair market price for the private land the city needs to purchase in order to expand the highway to four lanes, from west of Taylor Drive to Gaetz Avenue.
City administration asked for multiple land assessments on these properties, and even involved a third-party consultant who specializes in municipal and highway land acquisitions, to negotiate with the landowners on the city’s behalf.
But a deal to purchase the needed land still could not be reached with four out of the eight property owners, council heard Monday.
The city’s general manager of development and protective services, Tara Lodewyk, recommended that council initiate expropriation proceedings, in these four cases, to keep the highway widening project on track.
Lodewyk stressed it will not stop negotiations from continuing between the city and the landowners, in the meantime.
Council unanimously approved getting the ball rolling by issuing a Notice of Intention to Expropriate to the four landowners.
Mayor Tara Veer called it a “tool of last resort” that’s sometimes needed to pursue what’s in the public interest.
“It’s never a fun process, when big government steps in and expropriates land from the little property owner,” said Coun. Vesna Higham. But she added she’s satisfied that every effort was made by the city including, getting several market appraisals and involving a third-party negotiator.
Coun. Ken Johnston added he also feels “comforted” that the landowners have been treated equitably.
The widened Hwy 11A will eventually connect to the Northlands Drive project — which will eventually feature a future bridge over the Red Deer River and a new route that links north and south Red Deer.
Council heard the highway twinning project will also provide better access to Hwy 2 for the Edgar and Chiles Industrial Parks.
Construction plans include creating intersection improvements at Taylor Drive and Gaetz Avenue, as well as an overpass at the Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway crossing to help traffic flow more efficiently while also creating roadway capacity for development in the city’s northwest.
The city funded portion of the project is about $46 million, with Alberta Transportation committing $15 million to the project; and CP Railway contributing $3 million.
Construction is planned over three years, with utility relocation starting in 2021. If work can be tendered this summer, reconstruction of the overpass will also be started in 2021, but the majority of the project will be completed in 2022 and 2023.
Council heard this portion of Hwy 11A still belongs to the province, but its ownership will be transferred to the city in future. The province is meanwhile satisfied to have the city lead the widening project, while the provincial government provides some of the funding for it.