Town council started on a light note on Tuesday, November 12. Well, a bubbly note.
Mayor Jeff Genung opened the meeting by hoisting up a foil tipped bottle and made a proclamation to his colleagues and the gallery at the Cochrane RancheHouse. He said the non-alcoholic beverage bottle will sit idle until the Alberta government begins work on the interchange at Highway 1A/22.
“When an excavator is on site, and things start moving, we’ll pop that sucker,” he said.
There wasn’t a round of applause, nor did anyone jump out of their seat and hoot and holler.
Attendees were pleased though and smiled to themselves, whispered excitedly to each other, and revelled in the sense of hope that our little piece of heaven will get a second glance by the folks at the Edmonton Legislature.
Cochranites are a patient and cautiously optimistic bunch.
Results from a community survey last month revealed that 98 per cent of Cochranites are content with their life in our town, while 68 per cent said traffic and congestion is the main reason for a worsened quality of life. If our traffic woes were alleviated - could we achieve jubilance and peace?
Our recent provincial government’s budget - released on October 24 - was rife with austerity. The slashes and cuts will hit us hard, but the promises held within could hold us for a bit. A week after sitting at the edge of our seats the government announced allocations of $597 million to go toward highway twinning, widening and expansion. Genung and local MLA Peter Guthrie held their breath and waited . . .
As anticipated the 2019 provincial construction program identified an interchange upgrade on Highway 1A on the northwest boundary of Cochrane and bridge replacement at the Big Hill Creek on Highway 1A at the northern boundary of Cochrane. Guthrie - who represents the electoral district of Airdrie-Cochrane - said even he wasn’t sure if the money would be allocated right up until the budget release.
We’ve waited for years to see this project come to fruition. It seemed we’ve encountered and overcome almost every road block. Our population has surged to nearly 30,000. Traffic volumes during peak times have become congested in every direction along both major highways. The project dangled on the bottom of a top 10 list for priority government projects in early September and now it looks to be a go.
Guthrie says the ground won’t be broken for at least a year. An archeological dig, a redesign to accommodate Sunset Ridge and an accommodation for the West Path Delivery pipeline will keep the shovels at bay until then.
So, not dissimilar to a vacation at the end of a long winter, Cochranites will still have to sit tight in anticipation. Genung’s celebratory bottle will likely accumulate a bit of dust, but his attention will likely be diverted - a bit - to council’s recent approval of a schedule and estimated budget to begin work on Centre Avenue corridor improvements. These projects - to be completed in four phases - will require provincial cooperation.
These projects - notably the single lane on Highway 1A into Cochrane on Big Hill - have been on the town’s wish list since 1988. Yes, more than 30 years ago.
So, we shall wait like the patient bunch we are.