Red Deer County council slammed provincial officials on Tuesday for dragging their feet on much-needed safety improvements near the truck stop east of Penhold.
The Junction 42 Partnership Rest Area at Highways 2 and 42 has been a big county success story, drawing 16,000 truck visits in May alone. On weekdays, a truck pulls into the rest area, which includes a gas station, Tim Hortons and other businesses, on average every two minutes.
That amount of traffic has created safety concerns because of the number of big rigs pulling in and out of the truck stop on to Highway 42, where the speed limit is 100 km/h.
The county wants a roundabout built at the site and the speed limit reduced to 70 km/h.
Alberta Transportation recently responded by offering $300,000 to go towards improved right-lane access into the truck stop and on to Range Road 273A, which is located on the east side of Highway 2.
The Junction 42 portion of the project will cost about $486,000 and Alberta Transportation will fund 31 per cent — $150,000. The county will pick up the rest.
Mayor Jim Wood, county councillors and administration were not impressed by the government’s response to their safety concerns and “disappointed” does not adequately sum up Wood’s feelings.
“I’m so concerned that the Province of Alberta has not stepped up to the plate on this file … A Band-Aid is going to fix nothing in the long term.
“The roundabout was the opportunity to do this right.”
Wood said the county will lobby Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen and Transportation Ric McIver to invest in upgrades to improve safety.
Assistant county manager Dave Dittrick said there are frequent near-misses outside Junction 42 and the county has video to prove it.
“It is not good. We will give (Alberta Transportation) any tape they want to justify the improvements,” said Dittrick. “We need to pressure Alberta Transportation to get a double-lane roundabout because that will slow traffic down.”
Dittrick pointed out that when Alberta Transportation closed down the Gasoline Alley service road, which was heavily used by highway truckers taking a break, the county stepped up to provide an alternative with Junction 42.
Coun. Dana Depalme was dismayed that it has been more than three months since the county requested the Highway 42 speed limit to be reduced to 70 km/h and nothing has been done.
“When it’s endangering people’s lives I have such a problem with it being that hard to make a decision at the provincial government level.”
The entire project will also see major upgrades to Range Road 273A and Highway 42 east of Highway 2. That project will be done over two years and cost $1.76 million.
The province is kicking in $700,000 — 31 per cent — and Red Deer County $1.2 million. Cervus, which is building a new farm equipment centre on the east side of Highway 2 is contributing $333,000.