December 6th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 49
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Highway 3X open house presents a puzzle of possibilities
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Photo courtesy of ISL Engineering and Land Services
The above diagram shows the various route options in yellow that are being considered by ISL Engineering and Land Services and Alberta Transportation for the trucking route of the proposed Highway 3X. The red route is the existing Highway 3. The white routes are no longer being considered. The circles ares are approximate locations where interchages will be built. A complete breakdown of route and interchange options can be found at http://www.transportation.alberta.ca/6087.htm.
ANNA KROUPINA
Pass Herald Reporter
The third open house of the year for the proposed four-lane Highway 3X was held at the MDM on November 29 and 30.

The purpose of the open house was to provide an update about the project. Representatives from Alberta Transportation and ISL Engineering and Land Services, the company contracted by Alberta Transportation to conduct the Functional Planning Study, were present to answer questions and receive comments about the project. Poster boards running around three entire walls of the MDM presented information on project timelines, environmental considerations, current land ownership and route and interchange options.

The corridor from Sentinel to Pincher Station has been identified as a priority. The current area of study is broken into three parts: Stage 1A – from Sentinel to Blairmore - Stage 1B – from Blairmore to east access Bellevue - and Stage 2 – from east access Bellevue to Pincher Station. Stage 1A proposes several route options south of Coleman, essentially bypassing its downtown core.

According to Alana Somers, project manager with ISL, the Functional Planning Study is looking at all three of these segments, commencing in the west and working east.

ISL’s timeline is to develop a draft functional plan for Stage 1A and B by the spring of 2018. A draft functional plan for the entire area is scheduled for the beginning of 2019, with the final plans being complete by spring 2019.

Stage 1A – from Sentinel to Blairmore - was the main focus of this open house. The corridor was broken up into west, middle and east sections. Each section highlighted three Highway 3X route options and several choices of interchanges on which visitors were asked to provide feedback. The exercise resembled a puzzle, where the public could pick and choose between the route options to fashion their most preferred choice.
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Although the focus was on three major route options for the west, middle and east sections, ISL is looking at all possibilities.

“The three that are highlighted were selected to show the greatest differences in the options in each area, so the most north, the most south, and a middle choice. But there are other lines still showing and they are options under consideration,” says Somers.

Each of the three options outlined specific advantages and drawbacks to the route, like the number of direct private property impacts, technical challenges, environmental impacts and connectivity and access obstacles. Visitors to the open house were encouraged to post a note indicating which option they favoured.

Several boards with interchange options at Allison Creek Road and Blairmore were also presented. Unlike the route options that are still being looked at, the location for the interchanges are more or less defined, says Somers. However, the specific type of interchange and where exactly the connection will happen is still being considered.

One of the requests from the last open house was to explain why twinning Highway 3 through Coleman was not being considered. According to a prior study, most businesses along Highway 3 through downtown Coleman would be impacted in order to meet National Highway standards for safety and capacity. This option would also continue truck and heavy vehicle traffic through Coleman, which is deemed unsafe.

Having pull-out lanes is also not a feasible option, as it has been determined through different technical work that twinning the highway the entire length is what is needed to provide the long-term vision of access points and capacity for the highway, says Somers.
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Mayor of Crowsnest Pass Blair Painter says it’s “very” important to the municipality that a route for the new highway is determined as soon as possible to liberate land owned by Alberta Transportation.

“Alberta Transportation owns a lot of real estate within our community because of the uncertainty about which area the highway will actually take. It’s important for our community to decide what the route will be so that it can be nailed down and gazetted with the province so that Alberta Transportation can free up all the land they don’t need. This will also allow us to develop different areas within our community for future business and be able to plan. Right now, we are held at ransom by Alberta Transportation,” he says.

Last year, the municipality had one offer and one purchase on the Crowsnest Crossing site in Blairmore, but Alberta Transportation blocked the sale.

“They have sterilized that area for us because there is a potential that they may need a portion of that for the highway,” says Mayor Painter. “Our community needs to decide. This new highway will change our community. We have to mitigate the effects of the highway and move forward.”

Most visitors to the open house agreed that a change is necessary, citing safety and capacity issues along the current Highway 3.

Others, however, were not convinced that a Coleman bypass would be a solution to the traffic issues that currently occur at peak times.

One local pointed out that the bottleneck occurs on the British Columbia side and a bypass south of Coleman would not adequately solve the congestion issue.

According to Somers, ISL is in contact with the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation to some degree.

“They have shared some of their plans for what they have in mind long-term for the area. We have had conversation of what needs to be there and they will be providing more capacity, but I don’t know of the timing or any specifics there,” she says.
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The impact on businesses in Coleman continued to be a major concern for many in attendance of the open house, but there was a slightly more optimistic outlook from several people at the open house.

One person pointed out that with proper signage, the community could be showcased in a way that is lacking at present.

Mayor Painter noted that if properly done, Coleman has the potential to even see an increase in business potential.

“The way the highway is right now, being so busy, I don’t think travellers want to pull off the highway because it’s so difficult to get back on. Hopefully with the way the access to our community is designed, it will be a natural way to go and will just guide people right into our community and truck traffic will stay out of our community,” he says.

Impacted landowners, both directly or indirectly, were also present and presented another layer to the concerns.

“I have concern for a property that we have that is close to the area where some of the routes where some of the routes could possibly go,” says one Crowsnest Pass resident whose property is in Bushtown, directly south of the area of study for the proposed routes. “We have a better picture this time around than we did the last time with regards to reaching our property.”

She says that her concerns were “somewhat” mitigated following this open house.

“We got some good answers back and they gave us as much information as they could. There is a lot still up in the air, but the whole idea is getting better,” she says.
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Another land owner whose property is indirectly affected didn’t feel his concerns were adequately addressed. He says his property is 300 yards (approximately 270 metres) away from one of the proposed routes and he has concerns about noise pollution, aesthetics and fire hazard.

“My property value is going to go through the tank now. I asked about fire hazard because somebody could throw out a cigarette and burn the whole south side of the valley down. For the area that I live, the municipality has never put any fire suppression equipment or fire hydrants, so that’s a concern to me,” he says.

According to Somers, ISL has contacted approximately 60 land owners whose property is directly affected by one of the proposed routes for private meetings and one-on-one consultations. However, in order to be considered a property to be directly affected, one of the proposed routes needs to explicitly cross a property line.

At this time, there is still no funding secured for the project. Somers says a final plan needs to be approved before any funding opportunities can be obtained.

“We need a final plan approved by the government and the municipalities, and then they start looking at funding priorities. It is a challenging conversation to have with a lot of people because they want to see it move on. The Government of Alberta has many competing priorities for funding and this becomes part of the list that gets discussed and considered for funding once we have a plan,” she says.

There are no more open houses scheduled at this time as ISL continues work on the Functional Planning Study.

“Our next step is to take all the input that we get this week and filter it through an evaluation process in the new year with Alberta Transportation and the municipal partners on the twinning committee. We will look at the feedback and all the different options and come back with an agreement on what makes sense to be the recommended alignment. From there, our team does more work to refine those options and make it the best it can be,” says Somers.

The deadline to submit feedback is December 12, 2017 and can be done by sending an email to hwy3fps@islengineering.com. The entire set of information boards from the November open house can be found at http://www.transportation.alberta.ca/6087.htm.
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December 6th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 49
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