Rocky Mountain House council says twinning Highway 11 through town should be included in a major twinning project to Sylvan Lake.
In a letter to Transportation Minister Rajan Swahney, Rocky Mayor Debbie Baich said it was initially understood that “long-needed improvements” to Highway 11 through town would be part of the project to twin the highway from Sylvan Lake to the town.
“The project in its current scope does not include the portion of Highway 11 within the corporate limits of the Town of Rocky Mountain House,” says the letter. “The town is of the opinion that this portion is crucial to the success of the overall project.
“We appreciate that twinning the highway through town would be a costly and lengthy process. However, we are confident that a new functional plan with municipal, resident and business input an efficient and cost-effective plan can be developed and implemented.”
The May 18 letter was also sent to Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver and Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon, who is Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA.
The $120-million project to twin 66 kms of the highway between Sylvan Lake and Rocky Mountain House was announced by Premier Jason Kenney in July 2020 and is expected to be built in four phases.
Asked for comment on the town’s request, a spokesperson for Swahney said, “Twinning Highway 11 between Rocky Mountain House and Sylvan Lake will address safety issues, increased traffic volumes and congestion. As for the town’s request, that is currently being reviewed.”
Baich points out that the highway running through Rocky is a high-load and oversized-load corridor for heavy trucks. About 20 per cent of the traffic through town involves trucks, many of them serving the energy industry, which is expected to pick up as world oil prices recover.
As well, the highway serves as a major link to Bighorn Country, which draws 30,000 visitors and many RVs every weekend. Rocky’s increasing population and growing interest as Nordegg as a weekend destination are expected to put more pressure on local roads.
As far back as 2002, a transportation study called for the immediate upgrade of a key stretch of the highway to a divided four-lane urban arterial standard. At the time, 5,000 vehicles a day used the route, a number which has now doubled to 10,000.
The province has already begun to improve a Highway 11 bridge within the town’s limits that serves trucks with oversized and overweight loads. The speed limit on a stretch of the highway to Highway 22 was recently reduced to 80 km/h from 100 km/h to improve safety.