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Gasoline Alley roundabout already needs upgrade

Booming Gasoline Alley drawing traffic levels not expected for a decade
Red Deer County says a roundabout at the north end of Gasoline Alley needs to be expanded years ahead of schedule. (Photo by Advocate Staff)

Gasoline Alley is growing so quickly a key roundabout must be expanded a decade ahead of the province’s schedule.

The roundabout at the north end of Gasoline Alley that links to Leva and Laura Avenues was built about 10 years ago and was completed ahead of an $80 million overhaul that added a flyover and better access routes into Gasoline Alley to fix the dangerous confluence of 32nd Street and Highway 2. A Gasoline Alley service road along the west side of Highway 2 was also closed.

The roundabout was expected to do the job for many years but is already getting more traffic than it can handle on the busiest days.

“The first roundabout is failing. We’re having traffic backing up at times,” said Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood. “We’re especially starting to see it on high-traffic days like long weekends.

“If it continues to grow and we don’t do anything about it, then we’re going to have cars backing up onto the roadway.”

The volume of traffic is a sign of just how successful Gasoline Alley has become in attracting businesses and residents, said Wood.

“That’s a really good problem. It just shows you what’s happening in Gasoline Alley, where we are already having to take a look at the entrances.”

The county has already been working with the province, which has agreed to cover the cost of upgrading the roundabout to two lanes.

County assistant manager Dave Dittrick said traffic volumes are much higher than the provincial estimates used when the roundabout was designed more than a decade ago.

“We’ve already achieved what they thought the traffic would be in 2032,” said Dittrick.

As early as 2011, the county and its consultants had alerted the province that a two-lane roundabout would be needed, based on traffic counts that showed double the number of vehicles using the route compared with provincial counts. However, those concerns appear to have been dismissed when the roundabout was designed leading to the current situation.

Dittrick said traffic backs up most badly on Saturday mornings, when large numbers of people are heading to Costco or the Gasoline Alley Farmers’ Market, which opened in the fall of 2020. It is only expected to get worse when UFA opens its new location just across from the farmers’ market.

Besides creating a nuisance, the traffic jams are a safety issue. It is one of the worst spots for rear-end collisions in the county and the county’s paid on-call firefighters have been called to the scene regularly.

However, relief is in sight. Design work for a bigger roundabout is underway and Dittrick expects the $2 million project to be completed next year.

Red Deer County is also working with Alberta Transportation and Economic Corridors on upgrades to the Junction 42 truck stop, which has been growing steadily. The number of truck parking spots is being more than doubled to 98 drive-through stalls this year.

The growth in traffic has also put plans to construct a roundabout at the main entrance to Junction 42. The county and province are already in talks on the expected price tag and a cost-sharing formula.

Mayor Jim Wood said that since the county will be benefiting financially from the roundabout through additional economic development and taxes the province expects the county to contribute to the upgrade.

“We don’t have a number yet,” he said. “They have committed to working with us and giving us money but we have not come up with that arrangement, but we’re still planning for it.”

Wood said how quickly the roundabout happens will depend on the province’s schedule but he is not expecting a long delay.

“I’m anticipating we’re going to see something in the next couple of years.”

The province recognizes that Junction 42 also fits in with the province’s plan to use transportation corridors to boost economic development, he said.

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Red Deer County says a roundabout at the north end of Gasoline Alley needs to be expanded years ahead of schedule. (Photo by Advocate Staff)(Photo by Advocate Staff)

Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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