County councillors concerned about Highway 22 twinning
Several Rocky View County councillors voiced their concerns over the proposed twinning of Highway 22 from Cochrane to Highway 1, June 19.
Chris Delanoy of ISL Engineering told council Alberta Transportation (AT) plans to split the two-lane highway into a six-lane, divided highway from Highway 1 north to Cochrane. The plan also includes upgrading the interchange at the junction of two highways to traffic circles, to accommodate traffic travelling from Calgary to Banff and commuters coming into Calgary from Cochrane.
Councillors Lois Habberfield, Greg Boehlke, Liz Breakey and Deputy Reeve Margaret Bahcheli raised concerns over the impact the project could have on nearby landowners.
“Originally, (Alberta Transportation) had proposed twinning on both sides of the existing road, but now they’re asking to put the new part solely on the west side, where there are longtime ranch and farm families who don’t want it to happen,” said Habberfield.
“Their access will be cut off and they’ll have to go down a service road to get across the highway. These are pioneer families that have been here for many years, and that doesn’t give them more rights, but it does mean their rights shouldn’t be trampled on.”
Both Habberfield and Bahcheli noted the land on the east side of the highway consists of two-acre parcels already being subdivided for future development.
“The east land has been bought up by developers. They’re planning to develop anyway. They have the ability to build roads accordingly and it won’t impact them as much,” said Habberfield.
“On the west side, you have large-scale, pioneer families who have been committed to the land for generations, who could potentially be faced with losing strips of their land for this expansion. Once you start taking away bits and pieces of their land, it makes it incrementally harder for them to farm. That is not insignificant,” said Bahcheli. “The County recognizes and honours the presence of agricultural pursuits, but it seems that Alberta Transportation doesn’t have quite the same sensitivity and planning criteria, and that is concerning. Respect for agricultural communities and acknowledgement of their importance is very important to include in planning.”
Delanoy informed council twinning on the east side poses significant issues due to constraints such as wetlands, rock cuts and well sites, and therefore construction on the west side, where there are fewer utility lines and other obstructions, would be simpler and less expensive.
He said ISL is currently in the process of gaining feedback from residents through open houses and public engagement sessions to determine the best solution.
Boehlke said he was disappointed there hadn’t been better dialogue with landowners about the project.
“I was a little surprised at the lack of real one-on-one consultation with the residents,” he said. “You’re dealing with people’s livelihoods and their land, so I would hope at some point, you actually sit down with people and listen to them. I think that some due diligence needs to be done to make sure we choose the best route.”
Delanoy said once consultation with landowners and stakeholders is complete, the final proposal will be presented to the County and to Alberta Transportation for approval. He noted the project has not been included in AT’s current three-year budget and could take years to come to fruition.
Habberfield questioned the need for the twinning at all.
“I don’t think it needs to be a divided highway any time soon – that is 50 years out,” she said. “They could widen it by simply adding lanes. That would accommodate traffic for the foreseeable future.”
Habberfield said she was also frustrated that the project is seen as a commuter road for Cochrane residents and not for county residents.
“This road is being constructed for the growth that is going to take place in Cochrane over the next few years, so why should Rocky View residents be the ones to pay the price? This isn’t for Rocky View’s benefit, it’s for Cochrane,” she said.
She added growth expected from the proposed Harmony development near Springbank was not counted in planning for the highway twinning.
“How can (AT) count urban growth numbers but not county growth? It’s a real double standard that a rural municipality has to pay for the full cost of its developments, while an urban development is paid for by the Province. They treat us differently. To disregard the wishes of the rural residents is wrong.”
Following the discussion, Breakey asked that ISL’s final technical report be brought back to council once it has been submitted to Alberta Transportation. The technical report is expected to be completed this fall, with review and approval expected by next summer.
“I think we sent (AT and ISL) a message that they should listen to the residents,” said Boehlke. “I am confident they will come back with more feedback and a more technical report.”