The Mountaineer - Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada
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Four concepts for Hwy. 11 twinning

Attendees shared feedback on preliminary concepts

By Brittany Willsie
Staff Reporter

The province recently hosted two open houses on the twinning of Hwy. 11, both focusing on a 41-kilometre section of the highway from Hwy. 22 to Twp. Rd. 390, just east of Benalto. 
This stretch is one of four project areas to twin the highway from Rocky Mountain House to Sylvan Lake. 
Other project areas, like Project A from Rocky Mountain House to Hwy. 22, will be open for public consultation at a future date. 
On June 22, an open house was held at the Condor Community Centre and on June 23, an open house was held at the Pioneer Centre in Rocky Mountain House.
Both open houses ran from 4 to 8 p.m. with presentations at 5 and 6:30 p.m. 
Deputy project manager, René Rosvold, presented four concept options, which are: 1) twin existing highway; 2) expand the existing passing lanes; 3) couplet; 4) alternate highway location. 
Although twinning the existing highway was expected to be the plan, no studies had been done to determine if it was the preferred option. To mitigate that, multiple preliminary concepts were prepared. 
CIMA Canada Inc. is conducting the functional planning study for this project and developed the four options based on existing conditions and constraints, as well as interviews with landowners representing 115 separate properties within the study area. 
Community members were able to share their opinions on all four at the open house. Large concept maps were on display and attendees could share their comments and concerns by placing notes on the maps.
In addition to visually seeing the concepts, attendees heard a breakdown of each one during Rosvold’s presentation. 
She shared key considerations with over 80 attendees at the 5 p.m. presentation on June 23.
“We think that the highway twinning is what people were expecting. It was what we were expecting, but it does have the greatest impact to buildings that are on properties today,” she said. 
This concept shifts from north to south based on known constraints. It does impact many farms and acreages that are situated along the highway now. 
An option that impacts less landowners is to expand the existing passing lanes, however safety was a concern with this option. 
“The passing lane strategy is the lowest cost, impacts the fewest landowners, but doesn’t have as long of a service life and will be a less overall improvement to operations along the corridor,” Rosvold said. 
For the couplet concept, there would be an 800-metre wide separation between the east and westbound lanes. The westbound lanes would be constructed on a new alignment. 
“Couplet – unconventional, but could work. It’s the second highest cost and it still impacts a lot of stakeholders,” Rosvold said. 
A completely new twinning alignment is the fourth concept. 
“The new twinning alignment might be the least disruptive, but it’s also the highest cost by far because in that case, instead of building two lanes of highway, we are building four lanes of highway for the entire 30-kilometre section. Maybe a tiny bit better safety-wise than twinning on the exact existing corridor, just because you have less intersections, but not a significant advantage there.”
Concept maps are to be shared online within the week. 
Alberta Transportation announced the twinning of Hwy. 11 between Rocky and Sylvan during the summer of 2020.
So far, information for the project was gathered in 2021, alternative options were developed that winter and those alternatives are being compared now. 
Stuart Richardson, infrastructure manager for Alberta Transportation, said information gathered at the open house will be used to assess each concept option. 
“After this open house, we’ll take all the information we get from the public, as well as information we’ve already got about the whole corridor and make a decision based on that,” Richardson said.  
A preferred plan will be selected this fall, but there is still room for changes. 
“We’ll select the option that best fits and then go into a bit more detail on that option. So if it’s a twinning option, for example, we’ll zoom in on every single location, the intersections and the property impacts and just make sure every single detail is ironed out,” Richardson explained. 
Some attendees were concerned about concepts that showed the highway being built just north of Condor, close to where Charlotte Small Elementary will be opening. 
Richardson said in that case, they would assess the proximity to the school and make adjustments to the concept where needed. 
“We would go into more detail on that specific location and see how far away we are and if need be, we can move it further north or adjust it round about Condor to try and reduce the impact to the school. But there’s things you can do, noise barriers, things like that, or berms to try and reduce the impact,” he explained. 
Each concept option has different impacts to landowners in the area. 
Richardson said they plan to speak further with affected landowners once a preferred option is selected. 
“We’ve already been out to the potentially impacted landowners already and we’ve had some meetings with them. Once we have a recommendation, we’ll go back to those same landowners who are affected and go into a bit more detail with them.” 
A final open house is tentatively planned for this winter, after which the study team will share their proposal with the province, Clearwater County and other relevant municipalities.