Continuing to beat on a drum that we here at the Eagle have pounded a few times in the past, we have to address Cochrane’s dire need to have Highways 1A and 22, along with the intersection of the two, upgraded as soon as is humanly possible.
With the province currently paving sections of the Trans-Canada Highway, and no shortage of collisions that have the potential to close Highway 1 to traffic (which just occurred this past Monday, Aug. 24 around 1:40 p.m. when a semi-truck collided with a van, seriously injuring four), motorists often make the decision (or they are advised to by Calgary media) to travel Highway 1A to avoid construction and delays.
Granted, this is mainly a summer problem, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious matter that needs to be rectified immediately.
Summer is a busy traffic season to begin with, and when that is paired with major roadwork projects, seven days a week through peak travel times near one of Canada’s busiest tourist locations (Banff National Park), the result is gridlock.
Several people travelling from Canmore to Cochrane last weekend (Aug. 22-23) reported it taking them two hours to complete the 77-86-km journey (depending on whether you take the 1A or Trans-Canada – it usually takes about 45 minutes to drive from Canmore to Cochrane.
Traffic on the 1A was said to be backed up as far back as the Morley townsite Aug. 23, with the 1A/22 intersection in Cochrane seeing extremely heavy traffic throughout the day.
Those coming into town via the Trans-Canada and then north down the Highway 22 hill didn’t fair much better.
Traffic was backed up quite extensively, and the all-too familiar site of a streamline of vehicles lined Highway 22 for the better part of the afternoon.
As already mentioned, having to deal with road construction on the Trans-Canada Highway, and having much of the traffic coming through Cochrane to avoid said roadwork, is mainly a summer problem.
But summers come every year, as far as we know, and highway collisions can and do occur regardless of the season and can cause traffic issues.
The sections of Highways 1A and 22 in this area are without question a hazard to motorists, and they have been for some time now.
Four years ago, the project to twin Highways 1A and 22 and the intersection were on the province’s priority list, but thanks to an election (and several other factors, we are sure) it was taken off and never put back on.
If you take a look at Alberta Transportation’s website, you would find the 2014 document ‘Traffic Volumes at Points on the Highway Network’, which outlines the total number of vehicles to cross a point in both directions on several provincial highways each day.
Highway 1 just outside Calgary coming toward Highway 22 shows the daily traffic volume to be 31,370. How many of these vehicles head north on the 22 into Cochrane is not known, as the province does not provide data on that section of Highway 22.
Highway 1A between Cochrane and Calgary shows daily traffic use to be 18,580.
Both sections of highway are heavily used, and these numbers indicate that use.
By comparison, Highway 63, the section that stretches north up to Fort McMurray, sees about 4,500 daily traffic volume. This section of highway was on top of the province’s to-do list, while Highway 22 and 1A in Cochrane was taken off.
Comparing Highway 63 with 1A and 22 is like comparing apples and oranges, as 63 needed upgrading not due to heavy traffic use, but because of ‘heavy’ traffic use – heavy machinery and supplies being brought up to Fort McMurray for use in the oil and gas industry. So there is not question that the highway (labeled the ‘highway of death’ by some who live in the area) needed to be upgraded.
But the traffic volumes on Highways 1A and 22, and the pressure those volumes put on the town of Cochrane, including potential dangers, such as emergency access, need to be addressed before things get worse, if that’s even possible.
Collisions on Highways 1A and 22 are not uncommon, and unfortunately, some have lost their lives on these busy roadways.
It goes without saying that the more vehicles there are on the road, the more likely there is of a collision.
With more and more people moving to the Cochrane area every year, this problem will only get worse, and tragedy should not be the trigger that gets the province to finally put this much-needed project back on its priority list.
It’s not our current government’s fault that the Highway 1A/22 project dropped off the books, but it is its job to get it back on.