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Variety of opinions expressed on Highway 27 project in Sundre

Comments submitted during open houses were largely supportive although some people expressed preference for stop signs over roundabouts
Sundre residents and businesses will have to endure two, back-to-back construction seasons as the municipality completes upgrades to underground infrastructure along the Highway 27-Main Avenue corridor this year, with Transportation and Economic Corridors coming in 2025 to work on the long-anticipated overlay project. Simon Ducatel/MVP Staff

SUNDRE – Council recently heard that people who attended open houses on the planned detour for the provincial government’s Highway 27-Main Avenue overlay project that’s scheduled for next year expressed a variety of comments ranging from supportive to critical.

Linda Nelson, chief administrative officer, told council on April 29 during a regular meeting that staff had compiled comments received throughout the course of three meetings held to provide business owners and residents with information about the detour proposed by Transportation and Economic Corridors (TEC).

The first meeting was intended specifically for business owners along the main downtown core with immediate access to Highway 27 between the Red Deer River bridge to the east and the smaller west-side crossing over Prairie Creek, said Nelson.

“These businesses will be impacted through the remainder of the town’s construction in 2024 as well as by the TEC construction in 2025,” she said.

“Because of the impact to these businesses, we asked TEC to come up with an alternate traffic accommodation strategy for the 2025 construction, and it made sense to ensure that businesses were supportive of the strategy prior to informing the community.”

There were 74 business in all that were notified, of which 19 attended the meeting although many that could not participate requested information packages, she said.

The second session was geared for the residents who live along and adjacent to 1st Avenue NW – also known locally as Myron Thompson Avenue – who will be directly impacted by the detour route proposed by TEC in 2025, she said, adding 195 invitations were mailed out. There were 17 town residents as well as three Mountain View County residents who attended that meeting, she said.

The third and most recent session held in late April at the Sundre Community Centre was open to everyone, with 39 town residents and 16 Mountain View County residents attending, she said.

Nelson provided council with a summary of comments received during the open houses, which were also attended by members of council.

Among the feedback was: a request for improved access from the south on 6th Street SW; improve the landscaping and wooden pedestrian bridge that goes from 6th Street SW to the grocery store; three comments about flashing pedestrian lights and crosswalks; five comments about speed on 1st Avenue NW; two comments on access and egress to the strip mall where the Moose & Squirrel Medical Clinic is located; with some remaining resolute that the mini-roundabouts should be replaced with stops signs.

“Most mentioned that although they were not looking forward to the disruption, they understood that the work was definitely necessary and they are looking forward to the finished product,” said Nelson.

One of the comments expressed a willingness to accept “short-term pain for long-term gain,” she said.

Attendees also had an opportunity to learn about the multi-jurisdictional, two-pronged project’s full scope that involves the town first completing underground upgrades with TEC coming in afterward to finish the overlay.

“There overall seemed to be good understanding of the two projects,” she said.

“We clarified that the town is not paying anything towards the overlay, roundabouts and signals being completed by Transportation and Economic Corridors in 2025,” she said.

“And the funding that is being paid from the town budget from the utilities life-cycling restricted surplus account and using the MSI provincial grant, is to replace the aging underground water, sewer and storm pipes only,” she elaborated.

“There is no funding from the town going towards the surface improvements being done by TEC.”

Mayor Richard Warnock recalled years back when the project was first being proposed that there had been the question of whether to use stop signs or roundabouts.

“That debate is long past,” said Warnock, adding the design presented by TEC also features aesthetic considerations and won’t just be a big concrete pour.   

“I do feel that this is a project that we’re going to all be proud of when it’s done,” he said.

Coun. Chris Vardas added that in the few chats he’s had with some residents, people seem to be looking forward to the downtown core finally being beautified.

The councillor said he also heard concerns about the detour, speeds through crosswalks, as well as fears the road would deteriorate right back to its dilapidated state after enduring just one year of weathering. Vardas told his colleagues he explained during those conversations that TEC’s design was engineered specifically to handle the weights involved with the high-load corridor and would have a much longer lifespan.  

For the most part, however, Vardas said a majority of the conversations he’d had were positive, including a local couple who were born and raised in town that expressed enthusiasm for the project.

“They’re really stoked,” he said.

Regarding the conversations he had with the general public at the last open house, Coun. Paul Isaac said, “If their statements to me are reflective of the majority of the town of Sundre, I would say that they were very happy with what they see.”

Isaac also recalled when the project was first discussed years back that his biggest concern at the time was that there would be a near-even 50-50 split support for the design that was eventually approved.

But coming away from the most recent open house, the councillor said he was left with the impression that a higher percentage of the public is pleased that the project is happening.

“They’re happy that there’s a double-lane roundabout coming out at the Tim Hortons’ corner, and that there’s a light coming at the Bergen Road, the road being beefed up, and that the town is putting in new infrastructure and fixing our roads,” he said.

“We’ve been hearing for years as council, ‘Do something about the roads,’” he said.

“Well, we now are. And it feels good to do that.”

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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