City officials are hopeful a project to upgrade the south entrance into Red Deer is inked into the provincial budget.
On Monday, council endorsed Alberta Transportation’s revised plan to upgrade the Hwy 2 and Gaetz Avenue interchange.
The new plan proposes a single lane north bound exit from Hwy 2 that ultimately provides three lanes into the city – two lanes northbound onto Gaetz Avenue and one lane onto 19th Street and Taylor Drive.
The city has been working with the province on the issue since 2010 after a functional planning study was conducted in 2009.
Alberta Transportation’s original plan did not receive council approval because of concerns around the configuration, trail access and losing entry points into the city.
City manager Craig Curtis said the new design is a significant improvement for the interchange south of the city.
“It will provide for a better entrance into the city past the Westerner and it will also provide for an overpass that will bring traffic into the west side of Hwy 2 into the slow moving lane,” he said. “Presently it leads into the fast lane causing a potential conflict between slow moving and fast moving traffic. It’s a major safety concern.”
Mayor Tara Veer said the plan has some substantial improvements from what the city was presented with in 2010/2011.
Council was pleased that the new plan calls for more substantial directional signage into the city from all directions on the highway.
“That interchange is one of the highest areas of safety concerns both for the city and the county,” said Veer.
“Our citizens engage in the weave with highway traffic but also for citizens throughout Alberta. We know it is a priority for Alberta Transportation as it should be because of the significant safety concerns caused by an urban level of speed and competing with highway levels of speed at the interchange.”
The plan leaves the door open to build a single-lane south bound flyover from Gaetz Avenue onto Hwy 2 to allow for future expansion of two lanes. It will also leave space for future trail connections underneath the structures at Hwy 2A (Taylor Drive).
Curtis said in the future there will likely be some adjustments to the whole traffic situation on the east side of Hwy 2.
He said at least this will build the major piece of bridge infrastructure which is critical to resolving the traffic concerns on the west side.
Veer said the province is fully aware of the importance of having this project on the books in time for the 2019 Canada Winter Games. She said the project will likely be deferred to beyond 2019 if it does not make the provincial budget.
“We cannot be pre or mid construction in 2019,” said Veer.
“If construction is deferred and continues to be deferred because of the provincial economy then I think the city reserves the right to comment on the needs of the day. We are looking at a project that is four or six years out. The position of the council of the day may change.”
The city will also be keeping an eye on the budget for other key infrastructure projects including capital for a new courthouse, a decision on municipal land holding, funding for Red Deer College’s Gary W. Harris Centre for Health, Wellness & Sport and funding allocation to repurpose the Red Deer nursing home site for senior housing.