The first phase of the Highway 11 twinning project is done and work will begin this year on the next link of the 66-km route to Rocky Mountain House.
Transportation and Economic Corridors Minister Devin Dreeshen was at Highway 11 just south of Sylvan Lake on Wednesday morning to officially mark the completion of the first phase of a project to build four lanes from Sylvan Lake to Rocky Mountain House.
The $15 million first phase 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).
Design and engineering work continues on the other three phases in the $120 million project to twin 66 kms of highway to improve safety and provide a better corridor for area residents, industry and the many visitors who flock to the West Country every year.
The roundabout at 50th Street improves an intersection that had become a source of irritation for many local residents after it was converted to right-in and right-out-only access a few years ago because of safety issues.
“This was the right fix and was always the right fix to make sure you could have a safe intersection at Highway 11,” said Dreeshen, who is Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA and well aware of local unhappiness.
While inflation last year pushed up construction costs everywhere, the twinning project remains on schedule.
“We have seen cost escalations due to inflation but we were still able to make this project come in on time and on budget, which is a really great testament to the engineers and the construction guys who worked on this.”
Sylvan Lake Mayor Megan Hanson said local residents and downtown businesses have been asking for changes at the intersection for years and the roundabout has already had an impact.
“It’s been a huge improvement in town. It’s improved traffic safety. It’s improved the flow. Emergency services are happy, and the morning commute is far more pleasant when you’ve got a few other options than the few congested intersections in town,” said Hanson.
“It’s been great.”
Hanson said the town hopes the twinning project also helps the town’s ongoing economic development efforts.
“I think the increase in traffic on this highway in general will probably increase the visibility of Sylvan Lake. The more people who go by, the more people that might want to stop in.”
The roundabout at 60th Street is close to Gulls Field, where the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Sylvan Lake Gulls play and draw thousands to each game, and Pogadl Park, a huge sports and recreation hub under development.
The next phase will see the highway twinning from two kms west of Highway 781 to Benalto. Construction is expected to begin this year.
The remaining two phases include a 10-km stretch from Benalto to the Leslieville turnoff (Highway 766) and a 32-km link from Leslieville to Rocky Mountain House.