Highway changes still years away

Future plans to turn Hwy 11 into a freeway and to twin Hwy 11A were shared with Central Alberta residents at two open houses on Thursday.

Future plans to turn Hwy 11 into a freeway and to twin Hwy 11A were shared with Central Alberta residents at two open houses on Thursday.

While both plans’ functional designs are to be revealed in 2010, actual work on Hwy 11A might not be done for 10 to 15 years. The Hwy 11 changes could be 20 to 30 years away, depending on traffic volumes and other factors.

Area resident Pat Chiasson said she can wait.

The Hwy 11A twinning project, she believes, will go straight through her present residence, which is situated right next to the highway.

If her house needs to be sacrificed for the wider road, Chiasson expects adequate compensation from the province. But she admitted, “I’d rather keep what I have.”

Chiasson and a neighbour wondered why Aspelund Road isn’t twinned instead of Hwy 11A — especially since a lot of traffic seems to turn off Hwy 11 and head north along R.R. 283 to Aspelund Road.

Brian Reid, infrastructure manager for Alberta Transportation, said it’s all about traffic volume. The province starts looking at twinning highways when they are used by 10,000 vehicles a day. Hwy 11A has up to 8,000 vehicles a day. It’s busier than Aspelund Road.

Several changes to boost safety are being contemplated to go along with the widening. Since Hwy 11A is a correction road, many range roads on the south side of the highway do not meet up with roads on the north side. Reid said these would have to be realigned so they do meet, reducing the number of intersections along Hwy 11A.

Some private driveways also now come directly off Hwy 11A, but once the highway is twinned, Reid said all landowners would have to access their properties from less busy side roads.

“A lot of us never expected this would happen in our lifetime, but that’s what happens with progress,” said Red Deer County Councillor George Gehrke, who attended the open house at Red Deer’s Holiday Inn north. Gehrke believes the changes are reasonable, in terms of reducing accidents and improving public safety.

In both highway proposals, new access roads are planned to ultimately connect with a future ring road that would be built around Red Deer.

But in the Hwy 11 freeway plan, all smaller intersections would be closed between this ring road access — built somewhere between Burnt Lake Trail and Poplar Ridge, and the Hwy 20 access near Sylvan Lake.

This means anyone living between the two access roads — even producers who farm land on both sides of Hwy 11 — would have to drive their vehicles, or transport farm equipment, along gravel back roads to Sylvan Lake or the Red Deer Ring Road to access Hwy 11.

One farmer, who declined to be named, said he’d be in the position of having to make this great detour. But as he’ll be older than 100 in 30 years time, he isn’t worrying about it.

Another farmer said by the time Hwy 11, which now has 15,000 cars a day, is a busy six-lane freeway with more than 30,000 cars, it would be too dangerous to cross at a stop sign intersection anyway.

Brenda and Myron Senko like the idea of their nearest range road losing access to Hwy 11. “It suits us perfectly, because it would be quieter,” said Brenda, referring to reduced traffic.

More public open houses on the plans will be held this year. The Hwy 11 functional plan, with more details on proposed changes, will be completed in April.

The Hwy 11 A plan is also to be ready next spring.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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