By Trevor Busch
Town council has taken aim at a proposal to bypass Taber when the province begins a long-awaited twinning of Highway 3 at some point in the future.
A Functional Planning Study — currently underway — will identify staged options to upgrade the existing four-lane urban divided and two-lane undivided highway to a twinned freeway corridor designed to achieve National Highways System standards consistent with previous planning initiatives on Highway 3.
The segment being studied extends from the western boundary of the Town of Taber to west of the hamlet of Burdett. The target date for completion of the study is Nov. 30, 2018.
The existing short twinned segment passing through the Town of Taber, and the undivided segment through the hamlet of Grassy Lake are likely to be re-aligned through bypass routes to enable conformance with NHS standards. Access corridors to the freeway in this area will be through an estimated five interchanges.
“I can’t see anybody in the business sector, or the community itself, willing to go with this bypass idea,” said Mayor Andrew Prokop, speaking at town council’s June 12 regular meeting.
“I don’t see how it would be beneficial to Taber whatsoever.”
A study completed in 2006 recommended future interchanges at Range Road 175 in Barnwell, Range Road 151, and Range Road 121, and, ‘areas of further study around Taber and Grassy Lake.’ Officially, the study area starts west of the junction of Highway 864 to the junction of Range Road 130, west of Burdett.
“Every community in southern Alberta that’s along Highway 2 or Highway 3 has some sort of bypass planned around it,” said CAO Cory Armfelt. “Claresholm does, Fort Macleod does.”
Highway 3 is currently designated as a National Highway System “core route” as well as a Long Combination Vehicle corridor.
In January 2008, Highway 3 was designated as a twinning priority in the Alberta government’s 20-year capital plan.
“I think it will be a very short open house, that’s my feelings,” said Coun. Jack Brewin.
“Everyone I talk to, it would be suicide bypassing our town. I’ve seen communities over the years that have been bypassed. I’m sorry, I keep hearing positive things about bypassing.”
As a town representative to a regional twinning organization, Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux pointed out it will probably be decades before the issue comes to a head for Taberites.
“I’d just like to comment that Taber is not a priority for them right now. Crowsnest Pass is the priority, to get that twinned. And then they’re talking about doing near Medicine Hat, working alternately on either side, and then meeting in the middle. It truly could be 20 or 30 years down the road for this to happen.”
According to administration, Alberta Transportation also recently requested a meeting to discuss possible Highway 3 upgrades. The project is looking at overlaying and mill inlay of asphalt from west of Barnwell through to the east side of the Highway 36 and Highway 3 intersection.
Administration reported that intersection improvements at Highway 3 and Highway 864 were discussed, including traffic control lights. Other intersections requested for review included Highway 3 and 50th Street, as with the town’s planned Gateway Project many concerns on the flow of traffic and traffic light timing have been raised. Also requested were traffic and pedestrian counts at 51st Street and 57th Street.
“With the province looking to divert traffic around Taber, we’re probably going to lose 50 per cent of the traffic through Taber, so should we be looking at a light at the corner of Highway 864 and Highway 3?” questioned Coun. Joe Strojwas. “It’s just an observation, because they seem to be moving ahead a little sooner than not with the ‘ring road’, or bypass.”
Brewin was immediately on the defensive as an active apologist for the implementation of traffic controls at the intersection, regardless of provincial traffic priorities.
“Well, in the next 20 years, when we do actually see a bypass — we can say jeez I wish we would have put lights there. If one more person gets killed at that intersection, we’re going to say jeez I wish we would have put lights there. We have an opportunity — it looks like they’re interested in putting lights there. Let’s do it. Let’s approach the M.D. and make sure that they will support lights at that intersection. And if they do bypass us, my grandchildren will be driving around Taber. They can move those lights to the next intersection. If we start second guessing lights at that intersection now, I’ll be very disappointed, because this is a project that needs to be done.”
Associated Engineering has been contracted to manage the highway improvement project and is asking for feedback on the scope of work, including pavement rehabilitation, geometric review, culvert and sideslope assessment, drainage review, access management, environmental evaluation, and utility identification and contact.