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   Volume 81 - Issue 32 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: news@passherald.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
"Campfires need to be cool enough to touch to be considered 'out'."
- Karen Ritchie, SRD  
   
   

 

John PundykIf a competent consultant was asked to examine our economy and to prepare two lists, one our strengths the other our weaknesses, I am confident Highway #3 would be near the top of both these lists.
Although it may be all too easy to overstate this point, it has been my experience that while the highway brings us many opportunities, it has been responsible for quite a bit of economic harm as well.
To begin with, let me say no one can develop a serious argument for the status quo, that is, for things to remain as they are. Imagine where we would be if, a long time ago, the highway was not moved north from the main street in Blairmore or from the bottom of Coleman. As the traffic volume grows, so does the need to safely move this traffic through our community and here lies our predicament. Safety and optimal efficiency of the highway are on the one side and the community needs, which also include safety, are on the other side.
For example, a set of traffic lights on the highway may make entry onto the highway safer from a Crowsnest Pass point of view, but it may also be viewed as a traffic flow interruption and hazard from the highway design point of view.
Balancing these sometimes conflicting needs is very difficult for highway engineers and one can be certain they hear the same story from every town they have to deal with.
The problem for us is not only that Highway #3 is designated as a Class 1A, making it a National Highway, but for the most part, it is also our main street connecting the various parts of our community. These two roles are in conflict and, from an engineering point of view; the best solution is to separate these two needs. This is where the call for the divided highway is coming from.
Alberta, being a prairie province, and having our highway engineering planted squarely in Edmonton, creates a certain expectation as to what an ideal highway should look like. The best solution for a national highway is a divided artery, with limited access and design speed of 110 km/h. This is the best option and it is easy to do in places such as Fort McLeod or Claresholm.

 
However, this kind of thinking requires a lot of level ground and a good width for the right of way. The desire for this type of highway runs into tremendous difficulty when the land is not available or very expensive, the grades are mostly wrong, there are rivers and railroads to cross and road overpasses to build. If the distance is short, like in the Crowsnest Pass, the per kilometre cost of such a proposal becomes astronomical and delay becomes inevitable.
This is where the desire for the best solution becomes an enemy of a good solution. Highway #3 is no less a National Highway when it passes Fernie than when it passes the Crowsnest Pass. The only difference is that BC is not a prairie province with an abundance of flat land on which to build optimal highways. The engineers there have long recognized best solutions in a mountain environment are sometimes too difficult to achieve and, therefore, good solutions, such as urban four lanes, etc, must sometimes prevail.
I think the highway here will eventually be moved to south of the valley. Alberta Infrastructure has been patiently assembling land for the new alignment for the past thirty years. Recently, they spent a lot of money to buy over 100 acres of the former Coleman Collieries land, as well as, a smaller piece at the west end of Coleman.
The problem is not what they will do in the future, which is likely quite far off. The issue is that the optimal plan may be getting in the way of getting improvements that we need right now.
There are many improvements that can be made along the existing alignment to make the road safer and more efficient. I am sure the highway people in Lethbridge have a good list of these things. For one, we could use a climbing lane just west of the Volker Stevin yards; we could use some traffic lights and controlled pedestrian crossings. Perhaps an additional lane here and there, etc This would not only help the locals, but also create a safer and more efficient environment for the national traffic as it moves through this area.
Most of all, we need the highways department to come out and declare, and commit, to whatever plan they have chosen in order to create the economic certainty necessary for our development. With this done, we can work positively with the department on an interim good solution while we all wait for the best solution, which is the new highway alignment in the far off future.
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   Volume 81 - Issue 32 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: news@passherald.ca   $1.00   
 
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