Athabasca’s new Highway 813/55 interchange is slated to begin construction this May, said town chief administrative officer (CAO) Doug Topinka.
Topinka met with Alberta Transportation Feb. 2, and reported to council last Tuesday on the province’s plan to carry out the project.
“They have asked that we get our utility relocation started by May 1,” said Topinka during his CAO report to council.
Topinka said the province intends to begin bypass road development by May 15, beginning a three-year construction project.
“Phase one is putting in a bypass from the west end of the current bridge to pretty much in front of the car wash,” said Topinka, “at which time they will dig part of the channel and build a new bridge.”
The second and third phase, said Topinka, is completing the channel and taking out the existing bridge and overpass.
“That means the caboose, and anything we want to salvage out of the campground will have to be gone by May 1,” said Topinka.
A concern expressed by Topinka was what to do for a temporary campground this year.
“It is something we need to get set up somewhere, and we have a few options.”
Council discussed the interchange construction plans, but councillors Paula Evans, Christine Nelson and Timothy Verhaeghe expressed dissatisfaction.
“I’m sorry, but I am not happy,” said Evans.
According to the Alberta Transportation infrastructure guidelines of 2007, when a roadway with a combined use trail for cyclists and pedestrians is required across a bridge structure, a 4.2-metre wide facility with a traffic barrier is called for, said Evans.
“We are getting a 2.5-metre sidewalk,” she said.
Topinka told council that bicycle riders traveling across the new bridge will be required to dismount, becoming pedestrians in the process.
He said according to the guidelines, it is therefore no longer a combined use sidewalk, making a 2.5-metre sidewalk with traffic barrier acceptable.
Evans continued reading from the guidelines, citing that proper signage instructing cyclists to dismount must be present at both ends of the bridge, and a 1.37-metre high rail must be used on the outside of the walkway.
Topinka said he was unsure if the bridge plan included the 1.37-metre high rail, but said he would inquire with Alberta Transportation.
Evans said the town needs special consideration for the width of the sidewalk because the size of the trucks and amount of traffic using the bridge is excessive. She said her concern is bicycle riders will ride the roadway to avoid dismounting on the sidewalk.
A motion to direct Mayor Roger Morrill to speak at the provincial level with regards to widening the sidewalk to 4.2 meters was carried.
Morrill said he would make a phone call regarding the sidewalk and write a follow-up email to have record of the communication.
Topinka said the construction plans are going to be tendered in three weeks, so any action taken by Morrill must happen very quickly.