Hwy 2 access slated for improvement

Alberta Transportation is eying millions of dollars in safety and access upgrades to Hwy 2 on the southern edge of Red Deer.

Looking North from MacKenzie Road. The province is planning to make safety and access upgrades in the Gasoline Alley area of Highway 2 between Mackenzie Road and 32nd Street.

Looking North from MacKenzie Road. The province is planning to make safety and access upgrades in the Gasoline Alley area of Highway 2 between Mackenzie Road and 32nd Street.

Alberta Transportation is eying millions of dollars in safety and access upgrades to Hwy 2 on the southern edge of Red Deer.

Construction will occur over a two-year period, starting as early as 2012, on a number of improvements designed to help drivers get in and out of Red Deer and Gasoline Alley, located in Red Deer County, a lot more easily.

On Monday, city council was updated on the latest Alberta Transportation plans to upgrade Hwy 2 between Mackenzie Road and 32nd Street.

Arthur Gordon, principal at CastleGlenn Consultants of Calgary, said the province is looking to spend “tens of millions of dollars” on improving the highway.

One of the problems right now, he said, is that Red Deer residents, are leaving Gaetz Avenue southbound and heading directly into much faster Hwy 2 traffic. Weaving across three lanes to get into Gasoline Alley’s west end isn’t easy.

Instead of the current Hwy 2 on-ramp from Gaetz Avenue, a flyover would be built that would take drivers over all lanes of traffic and directly onto Gasoline Alley west.

City and county officials have been working with the province over the last 10 to 15 years on ways to improve the highway. Traffic during this time has grown by four per cent per year between Taylor Drive/19th Street and Mackenzie Road. Traffic volumes between 32nd Street and Mackenzie Road number 15,500 per day in each direction, but it’s envisioned these numbers will double by the time Red Deer reaches 190,000 people. Red Deer is currently more than 90,000 people.

Gordon said the province believes a solution has been reached and now it’s getting further feedback from municipal leaders and stakeholders. The public is encouraged to become aware of what’s being proposed. Ideally, the project would be ready for tender next fall.

“Who really benefits will be the Red Deer community,” said Gordon after addressing council. “We’re allowing access to get to different places in a more safe manner — and the widening of the corridor provides for enhanced flexibility and safety.”

Ultimately, the province intends to widen Hwy 2 to accommodate up to eight lanes, along with several enhancements at ramps within the study area. Initially, the corridor will be widened to six lanes.

The province is also proposing new collector roads that would run parallel to Hwy 2 on both sides. These would allow drivers to get into the city or Red Deer County commercial business districts without entering highway mainstream traffic.

Plus, northbound drivers would be able to either get back onto the highway or directly use 19th Street either through the Gaetz Avenue or Taylor Drive exits. This manoeuvre is supposed to reduce pressure on the intersections at Gaetz and Taylor.

Northbound traffic would also have direct access onto Taylor Drive via the collector road.

Also being considered are sidewalks and trails that would make it easier for people to get into the county via Taylor Drive and the Hwy 2A crossing of Hwy 2.

In addition to the flyover, southbound drivers would have additional optional access points to Gasoline Alley west (ie. using Hwy 2A/Taylor Drive or Leva Avenue).

The existing southbound exit from Hwy 2 to Gasoline Alley west would be removed and in its place would be a new one just before Taylor Drive. Drivers could still go to Gasoline Alley west from Mackenzie Road.

Gordon said the next phase would involve Hwy 2 improvements between 32nd Street and 67th Street.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com