An improvement to traffic lights at the “busy, busy, busy” intersection at Hwys 20 and 11 at Sylvan Lake is expected to improve traffic flow.
Since Tuesday, southbound traffic on Hwy 20 has had a new turning signal to turn east, or left, onto Hwy 11. There are now two lanes for left-turning traffic; one is a dedicated turning lane and traffic in the other lane can turn left or go straight.
Also, when southbound traffic is on the move, northbound traffic now has a red light. Southbound traffic has a red light when northbound traffic is allowed to flow.
“What that does is make it easier to make that left-hand turn. You don’t have to make it with opposing traffic,” said Trent Bancarz, spokesperson for Alberta Transportation.
Northbound traffic on Hwy 20 has a new left turning signal as well.
Adjusting the traffic signal and lanes cost about $120,000.
He said changes to the traffic signal were planned in October when the junction at Hwy 11 and Hwy 781/50th Street was changed to a right-in, right-out configuration.
“We suspected a lot more traffic would be using this intersection once those changes were made, particularly the southbound to eastbound movement,” Bancarz said on Friday.
“The left-turning traffic used to queue up quite a ways back, as well. It safely and efficiently moves traffic through there.”
Changes to Hwy 11 and Hwy 781/50th Street now prevent drivers from Sylvan Lake from accessing Hwy 11 by turning left to drive to Red Deer and eastbound drivers on Hwy 11 can no longer turn left into Sylvan Lake.
Dale Mannix, of Sylvan Lake, said the Hwy 20 and 11 intersection has been “busy, busy, busy” with the new turning restrictions at Hwy 11 and Hwy 781/50th Street.
“It’s a definite improvement. Trust me. But it doesn’t help us a bit on 781,” said Mannix, who is one of many Sylvan Lake residents who would prefer a traffic signal at Hwy 11 and Hwy 781/50th Street.
People have signed a petition in favour of a signal and a letter-writing campaign has begun.
Two fatal collisions that claimed three lives within about two months earlier this year prompted the turning restrictions.
On Aug. 2, a motorcyclist died at the intersection when his motorcycle struck an eastbound car turning north on Hwy 781.
On Sept. 24, two people died there after the eastbound car they were in turned left onto Hwy 781 and into the path of a five-ton truck.
When the rules went into effect at Hwy 11 and Hwy 781/50th Street, a significant number of drivers disobeyed the signs and did U-turns on the high-traffic highway.