By Cole Parkinson
The announcement that Highway 3 east of Taber would finally be twinned was met with overwhelming praise but details around the project were fairly sparse at Premier Jason Kenney’s press conference in Taber earlier this month.
To try to get a few more details on that project as well as address another issue within the Municipal District of Taber, a delegation from Alberta Transportation was in council chambers for the M.D.’s regular meeting on July 14.
At the announcement, it was announced preliminary work on the twinning would begin immediately and Alberta Transportation reports that is indeed the case.
“We have an owner’s engineer in terms of reference right now so it will be a design-build. We also have a term of reference out for land buyer so we need to buy land as soon as we can,” explained Darren Davidson, Alberta Transportation regional director. “We’re basically building to the Stantec study and I think ISL was the other one, with possibly an exception here or there and maybe with the intersection at (Range Road) 14-3 because we didn’t know this was coming. To be fair, your large development there puts some significant dollars in. Our owner’s engineer will look at that and make sure we minimize the throw-away. I think in the study it moved it 80 or 60 metres to the south, that may not happen for that lane.”
The Stantec plan was completed in fall 2019 and ‘the existing twinned segment through the Town of Taber and the undivided segment through the Hamlet of Grassy Lake may need to be realigned with bypass routes around Taber and Grassy Lake to conform with National Highways System standards,’ according to the study. Alberta Transportation expects the project to follow the original study very closely, with only minor changes needed.
“We are coming from (Highway) 36 north going east and following the study. That is the only way we can do it with the timeframe we were given. If we were to do this conventional, we wouldn’t be doing anything for five years because we would have to build and design, and do all sorts of stuff. With the design-build, it does accelerate it and we do hopefully get good costs for construction which I’m hoping we can show we can do this efficiently and cost-effectively. That maybe helps us catapult to the next sections,” continued Davidson, who also answered a question around overpasses on the highway. “It’s not a freeway, there are no interchanges planned. The bypass of Grassy Lake is planned and I think the minister (Ric McIver) talked about the bypass of Purple Springs but it’s not really a bypass, you kind of just go through it.”
Davidson also highlighted the fact to council the project would go as far as the money allowed.
“Our hope is, just east of Burdett where the other study has a bypass of Bow Island take off, and tie in there. However, the caveat is we only have so much money so whenever the money runs out, that is where we’ll stop. Potentially, it could be west of Burdett. We’re hoping we get the whole thing for under what our budget about is,” he said. “What happens in the design-build is, we give them the parameters and the functional planning studies and say ‘build this.’ Again this is the way we can meet the timelines. I know our timeline is 2023. We all know how construction goes, weather or whatever else happens so 2023, 2024. I just want to get going on it.”
Another reason Alberta Transportation was brought into council chambers was to discuss the intersection 30 kilometres outside of Taber at the turnoff from Highway 3 to Range Road 14-3, which heads to the Federated Co-operatives Limited fertilizer terminal. Council originally discussed the intersection in question during their June 23 meeting.
“I believe it was built the way it was designed and there are just a few things that look a little different. I still think if they were to put an arrow in, that would help,” stated Jack Dunsmore, M.D. project manager contractor.
In reviewing the section, Alberta Transportation explained their view.
“I’ve driven out there a couple of times now and it’s got a little bit of a chicane to it but we have other corrections going east along Highway 3. Site distances are well above our minimum and they built above our minimum. I have to give Federated Co-op and MPE a little bit of kudos. That intersection really isn’t required for 20 years but they built it above what was required in our TIA (Transport Impact Assessment) guidelines,” said Davidson. “It’s exactly the same dimensions (as the Lamb Weston intersection) which people were surprised at. Except with the northeast quadrant because whatever is projected at Federated Co-op is 10 times at Lamb Weston. So a lot more trucks are coming out of there and going west.”
Davidson continued saying there were several different options they could proceed with to enhance the safety of the road.
“We’re looking at delineators to give a little bit of the curvature, especially at night. If you think an arrow is what you’d like to see, I’m open to go there,” he explained. “Adding another lane? I can tell you with my experiences at Nobleford, adding another lane is not a good thing. We added more lanes in Nobleford and it caused us more and more trouble.”
A concern being brought forward was around the restructuring of the road which has led to less room for cars trying to turn off.
“I think the concern is the way the existing highway was, you could pullover on your shoulder, turn and cars could get by you without passing the centre line. The way it is now, you actually can’t do that if you’re in the through lane there. You don’t have that room to get onto the shoulder in order to make that corner. You’ve narrowed the shoulder up at that turning intersection,” stated Coun. Brian Brewin.
“It’s only eight feet, so it’s not even a lane,” replied Davidson. “Even the one that existed before didn’t have a full lane. You’re right, you did have a little more room to pull over but it still wasn’t officially a lane. In a year and a half, this shouldn’t be an issue at all, or even less than a year and a half.”