Construction season has choked traffic at two major points on separate north-south roads in Red Deer.
The realignment of Taylor Drive began in May with traffic being reduced to one lane in each direction starting from the bridge over the Red Deer River, west of Ross Street, and ending at 45th Street.
Under normal conditions, Taylor Drive has two turning lanes heading north on Taylor, two lanes heading south on Taylor from Ross Street and is as wide as three in each direction south of Ross Street.
An extra wrinkle to the summer driving season was thrown into the mix on Wednesday as construction crews started work on 55th Street from 50th to 48th Avenue. This work will close some lanes on 49th Avenue until September.
That started Wednesday when two lanes on the west side of 49th Avenue were closed, just north of the 53rd Street Music Store.
Lars Kay, a sales staff at the store, said vehicles were lined up all the way south from what he could see.
“I could see vehicles all the way down, as far as the eye could see,” said Kay.
“It looked like Los Angeles.”
Kay said the traffic jam affected their business, resulting in quieter days because of the hassle it has become getting to the store.
Further south on 49th Avenue, at Alberta Art and Drafting Supplies Ltd., a store manager saw the traffic snarl as an advertising opportunity.
“This is our time to shine,” said Lorette Frank. “The traffic was just packed and slow moving. If we would have a couple of people dressed up as paint tubes it would have been great advertising.”
With traffic stuck for a long period, Frank hoped drivers took a long look at their south exterior wall mural.
“It was a continuous stream,” said Frank. “There were a lot of people a little upset because it was so slow. They’d come in and say ‘Oh my gosh, it took me 10 minutes, 20 minutes to go a block.’ ”
Meanwhile, Red Deer Transit has had to make adjustments. Many buses regularly traverse 49th Avenue to reach the transit terminal, Sorensen Station.
Dennis Downham, Red Deer Transit senior operations supervisor, said they have put two extra buses into service in the north as a result of the backed up traffic.
“We managed to deal with it and minimized the impact to the passengers,” said Downham. “We put what we call two overload buses, to assist regular services operating out of the city centre because they were inconvenienced or delayed because of the traffic congestion.”
The two buses have been dispatched to the Parkland Mall area to keep service running as scheduled.
“We have to deal with these situations as they arise and we deal with them the best way we can. Our main priority is to cause minimum disruption to our patrons and that’s what we achieved Wednesday and that’s what we’re doing today (Thursday).”
The ripping up of 55th Street is long overdue, to replace the pipes underneath. Alex Monkman, Red Deer environmental planning engineer, said the sanitary pipe is 60 years old and the original water pipe about 100 years old.
“We’re up-sizing that pipe and increasing the size of the sanitary so we can allow growth in the Riverlands and Railyards areas of downtown,” said Monkman.
Because that portion of 55th Street needed to be repaved and was being dug up for new pipes, the city is redoing its structural base. Monkman said the repaving should make the road good for another 15 to 20 years.
The Taylor Drive realignment project is aimed at improving traffic flow at a busy intersection and improving access into the downtown, Riverlands, Railyard and the river area.
The work on 55th Street is scheduled to wrap up in September, while the Taylor Drive realignment runs until October.
For more information, visit www.constructionseason.reddeer.ca.