“. . . a bridge can last a very long time if it’s built properly in the first place . . .”
– Henry Petroski
Congratulations to the new council. It is good to see that there is a high priority on the widening of Ray Gibbon Drive.
Based on reports of the meeting between council and the Minister of Finance, it appears to be a tough struggle to get provincial funding for the roadway. Minister Ceci needs to be reminded that Ray Gibbon Drive has been proposed as a Highway 2 bypass and should be a provincial responsibility. Funding by developers and other property owners is an option for internal roadways but not for a provincial highway. Private funding for a provincial highway is out of the question!
Hopefully, the push for the widening of what was then called the West Bypass or West Boundary Road will not prove to be as difficult and time consuming an exercise as it was to get approval for the initial two lanes. After studies and a fair amount of controversy going back as far as 1980, city council gave approval to the current alignment in 1998. But the ink had barely dried on the 1998 Council minutes when an 11,000 name petition was presented in opposition to the proposal. Council was in a turmoil with the end result being to refer the proposal to a citizens’ committee for further consultation.
Personally, I foresaw that this delay would end up in a frustrating and lengthy process, which made me decide not to seek re-election in 1998. My prediction was right as the first phase was not to be for another nine years. Three different councils were to toy with the process of getting a highway built. The environmentalists wanted it to be built as far from Big Lake as possible resulting in a subsequent council approving an alignment down Riel Drive. That decision become an election issue resulting in it being overturned by a newly elected council. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans got involved restricting construction of a bridge over the Sturgeon River to a short time period to avoid the spawning season of the northern pike.
Now is the time to lobby hard and plan for a six-lane highway all the way through to Highway 2 north, making it a true bypass. It may not get approved all at once but that must be the ultimate goal since the rapid growth of St. Albert and the capital region will only result in more congestion in years to come. It is certain that the planners of Anthony Henday Drive are now wishing that it had been designed and built with a total of six lanes throughout as it is already congested.
With the alignment established, the environmental lobby should be minimal. Fortunately the bridge across the Sturgeon River was constructed to accommodate at least a four-lane highway. The problem again this time appears to be the provincial government’s intransigence in funding Ray Gibbon Drive as a highway bypass.
It is interesting that one of the original monikers for Ray Gibbon Drive was the West Boundary Road. St. Albert has now jumped over the former west boundary and before the highway is expanded will see development west of that boundary. And so it goes!
Ken Allred is a former St. Albert Alderman and MLA