The Highway 2A intersection near the Red Deer Regional Airport is one of the most dangerous in central Alberta, reckons Dennis Cooper.
It feeds traffic to the airport and the fast-growing Springbrook community and is located smack dab in the middle of a 100-km/h highway that sees 20,000 vehicles a day.
The former Penhold mayor and owner of the airport-based pilot school, Sky Wings Aviation Academy, has seen a number of collisions at the junction and even more near-misses.
So, he welcomes the news that Alberta Transportation wants to build a roundabout at the intersection of Highway 2A and Township Road 372 to the east and Airport Drive to the west.
Alberta Transportation said on Wednesday that it expects to begin construction on the roundabout next spring for a fall completion date.
The $6.9-million project is expected to create about 35 jobs and is part of the province’s $10-billion recovery plan, which aims to create 50,000 jobs.
“Alberta Transportation is aware of safety concerns at the Highway 2A and Highway 42 intersection,” says the province, adding an engineering assessment was completed last year.
Cooper said the spot has long been a hazard. When he was mayor of Penhold, the town wrote a letter to the province asking to do something.
“We (saw) how dangerous the intersection was becoming. I think, at that time, the traffic count was around 10,000 to 12,000 a day.
“I’ve had a couple of close calls coming out of there myself and seen a number of accidents. I think the roundabout is a good idea.
“It’s going to calm the traffic definitely. People are going to slow down at that roundabout and it’s going to make it overall safer for the residents of the Town of Penhold as well as Springbrook.”
Particularly, frightening now is the prospect of making a left turn from the southbound lanes of Highway 2A on to Township Road 372. The left lane is marked to allow left turns and straight-through traffic. The right lane is marked for right turns only on to Airport Road.
However, too often vehicles trailing a left-turning vehicle will veer into the right lane at the same time someone is braking in that lane to go to Springbrook or the airport.
“That’s the most dangerous turn in central Alberta is the left turn off that intersection,” said Cooper.
One does not have to wait long during evening rush hour, as Springbrook residents who work in Red Deer are returning home, to see nail-biting driving, he said.
Red Deer Regional Airport CEO Graham Ingham had the misfortune of having first-hand knowledge of the intersection’s dangers.
“I have been personally involved in an accident at that intersection, but thankfully not a serious accident,” said Ingham.
“Anytime you can improve public safety it’s a great day.”
Ingham said as busy as the intersection is now, if all goes to plan it will see even more airport-bound traffic.
“I am hopeful the airport will be growing in 2021 and that intersection will be a lot busier.”
Red Deer County has been aware for some time about the increasing danger of the intersection because of the fast growth of the small community of Springbrook and new businesses coming to the airport.
Plans to install a set of traffic lights were already on the books, when Alberta Transportation came forward with a proposal to boost safety further with a roundabout. It will cost just under $7 million with the county contributing $857,000.
County council approved the winning bid by Northside Construction on Tuesday.
In approving the motion, several councillors described the road junction as “scary.”