The permanent closure of an intersection at Highway 8 and 101 Street is leaving many Springbank and area residents frustrated with dramatically increased commutes.
Due to ongoing construction on the West Calgary Ring Road, Alberta Transportation closed 101 Street permanently in mid-September, due to concerns about unsafe U-turns onto Highway 8, according to Alberta Transportation.
While the Alberta government claims there was plenty of notice for the community, nearby residents of Springbank and Elbow Valley claim they didn’t find out about the closure until signage on the road directed them to take a lengthy detour.
Jade Davis is a Rocky View County parent that drives between her home in Elbow Valley to the elementary school in Springbank anywhere from three to five times a day. She claimed her commute has doubled since the intersection closure, and she now spends on average four hours daily in her vehicle.
Immediately after the road was closed, Davis said one of her neighbourhood friends listed her house for sale to avoid dealing with two to three years of detours.
“They said 'we didn't sign up for this,'” she said. “It's that bad. I’m so upset about it.”
After Davis drops off her kids in the morning, she said she returns to the school at noon to pick up her youngest child from kindergarten. She then returns to pick up her other two children from school in the afternoon, heads home for dinner, and many nights will turn right back around for their evening sporting commitments.
On top of that, she also works part-time and now takes many of her meetings on the phone while driving.
When road conditions are good, she said she takes the detour via Highway 8 to Highway 22 and Highway 1, but this alternative route isn’t always feasible.
“When the roads are bad, I drive through the city because I don't want to get in an accident at those speeds with three little kids in the car,” she said.
According to Karin Hunter, Springbank community association (SCA) president, 101 Street has been used safely by the community for many years as the traffic artery between Highway 8 and Springbank’s schools, recreation centre, seniors centre, equestrian centre, soccer and baseball fields, businesses, and churches along Range Road 33.
For families along Highway 8 that access facilities in Springbank, this closure is a significant impairment to their quality of life, Hunter said, and will continue to impact them for what appears to be the next two or three years..
Additionally, seven school buses are forced to take lengthy detours totalling 30 kilometres compared to the previous two to five kilometres, according to Hunter. For some kids, that means commuting home from school now lasts longer than an hour.
“In our view, considerable risk is introduced for bus routes, which now have a much longer commute on highways with 110 km/h and 100 km/h speed limits,” Hunter wrote in a recent email to Alberta Transporation.
Hunter said that closing 101 Street access forces Springbank families to choose between time and safety. She said Highways 8 and 22 are busy, undivided highways with heavy truck volumes and difficult winter driving conditions. A parent who drove to Springbank via the city detour told Hunter they hit 29 traffic lights.
The closure also raises some concerns for local emergency response crews from the Rocky View County Fire Station in Elbow Valley.
Alberta Transportation maintains emergency response times will not be impacted, according to Hunter, but she said the government hasn’t specified how response times will be maintained when emergency vehicles have to pass through some sort of obstruction or barrier at 101 Street.
Hunter questioned how Alberta Transportation justifies the closure of 101 Street and what other options were considered, and noted there are easy solutions by bringing back the left-hand turns onto Highway 8 from 101 Street.
“When people went to access Highway 8 from 101 Street, they found they couldn't make a left-hand turn. That caused people to turn right and then U-turn,” she explained.
“I think what [Alberta Transportation] didn't understand is that U-turns were happening because of what Alberta Transportation did by closing the left-hand turn.”
She added the situation could be prevented by adding temporary traffic lights or a roundabout.
The intersection was scheduled to be closed this fall to allow for construction of the interchange in the Highway 8 and Stoney Trail area, but Alberta Transportation was supposed to provide a bypass onto Highway 8, according to Rocky View County Mayor Don Kochan.
“The County is not pleased with the closure in relation to not having a bypass available, and so we have issued a letter to the Minister of Transportation,” Kochan said.
In that letter, the County indicated they would like Alberta Transportation to take another look at providing alternate options for access and alleviate some confusion. According to Kochan, the government agency has not yet responded to the County.
“The Province feels that what we've got is something that's acceptable and unfortunately we're not seeing the acceptability of it and we're hoping that [the Minister of Transportation] can reconsider some options on it,” Kochan said.
Kochan hopes to see temporary traffic lights to allow traffic through the area, but said he’s unsure if Alberta Transportation will consider different options.
Alberta Transportation has repeatedly advised the public the intersection will not reopen, stated Rob Williams, press secretary of the Minister of Transportation.
Currently, alternate north-south routes include 69th Street, Sarcee Trail and Highway 22 (Cowboy Trail). As for east-west connections in and out of Calgary, Old Banff Coach Road, Township Road 242, (17th Avenue) and the Trans-Canada Highway (16th Avenue) are available options.