Highway counts make no sense

Re: Hwy 791 upgrading dropped from province’s plan (Feb. 8, 2013)

Re: Hwy 791 upgrading dropped from province’s plan (Feb. 8, 2013)

I was interested to read the article in your newspaper recently with regards to the province’s decision to drop the upgrading of Hwy 791 from its three-year plan.

However, as I read Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood’s comments with regards to the traffic counts on a portion of this road, I was confused. I have had several communications with various county staff and with Mayor Wood himself regarding the traffic concerns on this road. When I first moved to Red Deer County, the section of the road in question was not gravel. However, in July 2011, Red Deer County downgraded the road to gravel. When I enquired of Red Deer County staff for the reason behind the decision to downgrade a road that had such a high volume of traffic, staff confirmed at that time that the traffic count was over 600 vehicles per day.

I then requested a copy of the Red Deer County policy regarding road enhancement. This policy states that “Road enhancements will be determined on the basis of the following factors: 1) Average number of vehicles per day (a) 200 or greater – priority for hard surfacing.”

Given Red Deer County’s own policy, I was confused why they would downgrade a road to gravel at a time when county staff confirmed that the vehicle count on this road was over 600 per day. I thought perhaps Mayor Jim Wood could explain why the policy did not appear to apply to this particular road. In August 2011, Mayor Wood offered this explanation: “While this particular road may experience vehicle counts of 600 or more at this time, we expect that number to decrease significantly when Hwy 791 is in full operation in the near future.”

Given the nature of politics, I still could not understand how Red Deer County could justify downgrading this section of road to gravel when it had such a high volume of traffic, simply because Red Deer County hoped that the province would upgrade this road sometime in the future. In September 2011, after one particularly dangerous experience when my windshield was once again cracked by flying rocks sprayed by one of the hundreds of cattle liners and service vehicles which travel this road, I again communicated my concerns to Red Deer County.

In response to my concerns, in October 2011, I received an email communication from Red Deer County staff that a vehicle count had just been taken (over the September long weekend) and that the count was determined to be 249 vehicles per day.

So it was with great interest (and a good deal of confusion) that I read the article in the Feb. 8 edition of the Red Deer Advocate. My understanding is that Red Deer County administration now acknowledges that the average vehicle count per day on this particular gravel road, for which Red Deer County is now appealing to the province for funding to upgrade, is “about 600 vehicles a day.” Am I to understand that in July 2011, the traffic count on this road was 600 vehicles per day, then in October 2011 the traffic count dropped to 249 vehicles per day, and has now again climbed to 600 vehicles per day? Or am I to understand that a taxpayer is provided different information by Red Deer County than that used to support funding applications to the province?

Doris J. MacKinnon

Red Deer County