Council endorses study of six-lane expressway

Red Deer civic leaders have endorsed a study touting 20th Avenue as the best route for heading south along a six-lane expressway to be fully built in 30 years.

Red Deer civic leaders have endorsed a study touting 20th Avenue as the best route for heading south along a six-lane expressway to be fully built in 30 years.

On Monday, city council unanimously supported Stantec Consulting’s study which looked at how best to align the “north highway connector” which would link Hwy 11A with Northland Drive, 20th Avenue and McKenzie Road.

The study suggests protecting the right-of-way along 20th Avenue which when built will border the eastern edge of Rosedale, Deer Park and Lancaster neighbourhoods.

Council had wondered if moving the road farther east to 10th Avenue was a better solution since 20th Avenue was so close to housing.

“My concern is we’re building an expressway in a developed area,” said councillor Gail Parks.

Stantec suggested in its report that 10th Avenue wasn’t a good idea.

As Mayor Morris Flewwelling later explained, 10th Avenue would be too far out for drivers to want to go.

Plus there are acreage developments in the area, he said.

“There was a suggestion of going the quarter line where the power line is,” added Flewwelling, referring to 15th Avenue. “The problem is, it makes a no man’s land neighbourhood on both sides.”

Russ Wlad, project manager with Stantec, told council that a study conducted in 1996 identified 20th Avenue as a “higher level” road in the city.

The 2009 study suggests 20th Avenue would be built as a two-lane road in 2018, the year when the city’s population is expected to reach 115,000. At some undetermined time, four lanes would be built. And in 30 years, when the city’s population reaches an estimated 188,000, the road would be six lanes.

The consultants also looked at protecting a stand of trees running behind backyards near where 20th Avenue would be built. A buffer would then move east 55 metres.

But to do this would cost about $5.5 million, council was told.

Instead, the trees would be removed and the berms enhanced with landscaping.

Councillor Tara Veer said she was glad to hear land owners will have say, during the detailed design stage, on land acquisition and access issues.

Councillor Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer supported the study, but still had reservations about whether a six-lane expressway would be necessary.

“I am concerned with the environment in the area, the wildlife,” she said later. “You know, you go to Europe and they have congestion, they have backups and you just work around that.”

Councillor Larry Pimm said he can understand Watkinson-Zimmer’s angst. But he said the city is protecting options for the future.

The first leg of the project, Northland Drive, will be built from Gaetz Avenue and Hwy 11A, extending south and across the Red Deer River. It will then hook into 30th Avenue.

That initial phase will cost more than $128 million and is slated to be built from 2009 to late 2012. The city is hoping to receive a good chunk of money from the province for this leg.

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