A Highway 766 roundabout that area representatives say is badly needed to improve safety will be reconsidered as planning continues on the next phase of Highway 11 twinning.
“Alberta Transportation and Economic Corridors will be instructing the detailed design consultant to review the pros and cons of a roundabout at the Highway 11 and Highway 766 intersection, which will include the helpful local feedback before a decision is made,” said Jesse Furber, press secretary for Alberta Transportation Minister Devin Dreeshen.
“The purpose of planning and public engagement is to do exactly this – gather local feedback to help deliver a product that Albertans will be proud of.”
The $120-million project to twin 66 kilometres of highway between Sylvan Lake and Rocky Mountain House was announced in the summer of 2020. Construction began in spring 2022 on the project to be built in four phases.
The $15-million first phase has been completed which saw a four-km stretch of highway twinned west of Highway 20 and the construction of roundabouts at Highway 781 (50th Street) and Range Road 15 (60th Street). This year’s work is now largely complete between Benalto and 60th Street at Sylvan Lake.
Furber said the planning study is nearing completion for the 41-km stretch between Township Road 390 near Benalto to just east of Highway 22 south of Rocky Mountain House.
“The consultant’s role at this stage of planning is to recommend an alignment for the new highway, along with some basic intersection layouts,” said Furber.
The next phase will involve detailed engineering design and is set to begin next year. This work will finalize the details of the roadway design that will go to a contractor for construction.
Area municipal politicians have united in lobbying the province to include a roundabout at Highways 11 and 766 to make it safer for vehicles turning east and west on to Highway 11.
Eckville Mayor Colleen Ebden and Lacombe County Coun. Dana Kreil have been particularly vocal about the need for a roundabout, which was initially proposed in Highway 11 twinning plans but later removed.
As recently as this past June, a senior Alberta Transportation official told Lacombe County council that based on traffic volumes a roundabout was not needed.
Ebden said the town has been reaching out to other municipalities, businesses, farmers and town residents to enlist them in the roundabout effort.
Lacombe County council pressed the case for a roundabout in a meeting with Dreeshen at the recent Rural Municipalities of Alberta fall conference earlier this month.
“(Dreeshen) seemed to be quite receptive to the idea,” said county manager Tim Timmons.
“Obviously there is a lot of work ahead before we see any actual construction take place. But I had a good feel for our meeting.
“Obviously, he wasn’t able to commit to anything. He has to go through his own internal processes, establishing priorities and there is a funding component he’s going to have to address with the Treasury Board.
“But fingers crossed, something positive will come out of this.”
Eckville Mayor Colleen Ebden said the town remains “hopeful” after meeting with Dreeshen at the RMA convention, adding that Jason Nixon, MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre and Seniors, Community and Social Services minister is “on board.”
“We will continue to have anyone and everyone send letters to the minister citing safety issues for those travelling onto these highways.”
Ebden said that for semis and tanker trucks trying to turn left onto 766 from Hwy 11 and left from 766 onto Hwy 11 a dangerous situation could be created if both cannot fit into the intersection.
“We have school buses turning both directions onto Hwy 11. Everyone should feel safe when travelling from the north turning onto Hwy 11.”
Last month, Clearwater County sent a letter to Dreeshen to express its “strong support” for a roundabout.
“We recognize the safety challenges associated with the current intersection design, and we support this initiative to enhance safety and traffic flow in the area.”
Town of Sylvan Lake has also sent a letter of support.