Frustration with government decisions regarding Benalto bridge

I am writing in complete and utter amazement (and frustration) at two specific decisions, one taken by Red Deer County with financial assistance from the Government of Alberta, and the other involving all three levels of government but mostly the Provincial Government’s Transportation Department. In my opinion, both decisions show how far our ‘local’ governments have removed themselves from us lower mortals, leaving us to pay their bills, and question the wisdom of their decision-making skills.

I drive from west of Benalto to Red Deer almost daily. I leave gravel on the south side of the Benalto Bridge on RR 30 where it crosses the Medicine River. About 97% of the time there is no traffic on the road. I almost never have to wait to cross the single lane metal bridge heading north, or returning heading south. The latest traffic count on the road was done in 2004 showing 383 vehicle movements per day. The bridge is certainly not a ‘bottleneck’ as described by Stantec Consulting Ltd., but it does serve to reduce travel speed at the bottom of a long dip, actually providing a safety feature for the traffic entering or exiting from Twp. 384. There are also serious drop offs on either side of RR 30 with no shoulders at all giving another reason to keep travel speeds to a minimum.

Red Deer County has included this site within its Environmentally Sensitive Areas, and I have many photos of herds of deer grazing close by the bridge. Make it easier to go faster and there will be unnecessary wildlife/human vehicle interactions. Once in the last 10 years has there been serious flooding when the road was closed for several days, but that was an everywhere occurrence, and even the County can’t stop the rain.

Yet the County has decided that the bridge needs to be totally removed, a new one built, the roadway raised and widened, at a cost of over $2 million. The whole process is predicted to take nine to 10 months once they begin in February or March, cutting off any north/south access on the only paved road between Hwy. 781 and Hwy. 766.

Compare this decision to the one taken at Hwy. 11 and Sec. Hwy. 781 where a decision was made to NOT spend a penny more than needed. Rather than doing the oh-so-logical thing and putting in a set of lights, the centre/left turning lane is dug up and blocked off. This has disrupted the historical flow of traffic and frustrates everyone who has a good reason to come and go into Sylvan Lake. I passed an older gentleman the other day as I was heading east who was trying to make a left turn to head north into Sylvan. Luckily he made it safely, but it was hard to tell if he was just being ornery or was seriously confused by it all. I predict the next big accident will occur at the Hwy. 11 and 60 St. access sooner rather than later, and I’m no rocket scientist or transportation expert.

I think the priorities are somewhat skewed on these two issues. What is wrong with repairing a metal bridge (be it footings or whatever) on a less-travelled roadway, and using those savings to install traffic lights at a busy intersection? There are no freeway issues between Hwy. 20 and 60 St., as there are already speed and volume limitations, so that’s no excuse. And the environmental, neighbourhood and school bus access and speed issues created by removing, replacing and widening the Benalto Bridge on an in-frequently used road just don’t make $2 million dollars worth of sense in this economy.

That’s just my opinion and I don’t want to hear “That’s progress”. Lights – yes, bridge replacement – no. Please, if you absolutely have to spend OUR money, do it sensibly.

Aly Seymour

Eckville

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