Alberta Transportation forces highway entrance changes within county
Alberta Transportation is citing safety issues as the main concern in forcing some county residents to move property access off of main highways.
"Each access creates potential conflict points between vehicles travelling at highway speeds and slower moving vehicles that may be entering, leaving or crossing a highway," said Andy Charchun, from the Vermilion office of Alberta Transportation. "In most cases the new entrance will be finished before the old one is removed and it will be at our cost. We strive for one per quarter or less."
Accesses will be moved or closed. "We want the number of accesses reduced. We have had a number of cases where rollovers have occurred," added Andy. "In Alberta, six to 10 per cent of collisions and fatalities on rural provincial highways are a result of striking accesses."
Access relocations are currently being reviewed on secondary highways 617 and 834 and construction will begin shortly. New land entrances will be established on range roads that are off of the highways.
Camrose County has no jurisdiction on provincial rights of way, but council voiced its displeasure at the way Alberta Transportation has been forcing the issue with some landowners. "To what extent was the Camrose County involved in consultation as far as planning to put approaches on county roads?" asked councillor Vern Peterson.
"As far as I know, we didn't consult the Camrose County," said Andy. "In some jurisdictions we started to do that, but it was a common sense approach that this was the right thing to do. We didn't need to consult or apply for a permit as such. No, we did not consult the county."
"Alberta Transportation should get written approval from all affected landowners whose existing highway access is going to be eliminated and relocated because of pending highway surfacing," said county administrator Steven Gerlitz. "Alberta Transportation is responsible for all costs associated with relocating the existing highway approaches to local county roads."
The county received an email on July 10 from Tim Guenther, field support technologist at Alberta Transportation, central region, Vermilion district regarding provincial highway access approaches. "Alberta Transportation has a pavement rehabilitation project underway for Highway’s 617 and 834. As a component of the project Alberta Transportation reviews the safety and functionality of the highways. The department endeavors to limit highway accesses by consolidation or by relocating the accesses from the highways to the local road networks where possible," said Tim.
"Our review has indicated that an adjustment to the accesses along the aforementioned highways is warranted. I trust that an expeditious review will be forthcoming and that there will be no issues with the proposed work. It would be appreciated if the County of Camrose would review this matter before council and respond to the department as soon as possible."
Some of the landowners are in Vern's division. "It would be my observation, Mr. chairman, that I would find it interesting that the Alberta government would consult with the people by advising them that they are moving them (accesses) whether they want to or not," said Vern. "That is what I heard from people along the road. They were told that this is going to happen and this is the way it is and that was the consultation."
Landowners were told that they don't have a choice. "The provincial government have moved in a way that they think they can treat the people who elected them to that extent. I think it's wrong. I would have appreciated that Camrose County would have been involved in the initial consultation, so me as a representative of those ratepayers, wouldn't have heard second hand that the consultations didn't go so good," said councillor Vern. " They were told what would happen and were disgusted at the way it happened. I agree with safety, but consultation means going face to face with people and consult on what we are going to do. It's not telling good, honest, hard working people what they are going to do. I take exception to that. I think it has to stop."
Reeve Don Gregorwich added his views. "I talked with someone who went through the experience with Alberta Transportation about access relocations," said Don. "I can have him come forward at any time to say what discourtesy and arrogance he received from Alberta Transportation. In the end, the transportation representative's superior came out and the situation was resolved. However, I'm going to say this to you as Alberta Transportation representatives: if there are any residents in our county who are treated with arrogance and discourtesy, we will stop talking to the people in front of us and head straight to the minister and say this is unacceptable. Our people deserve to be treated properly and with respect. There is a right way and a proper way. If that is not followed, you haven't heard the last of us," said Reeve Don. "I respect what you are doing, but please keep it professional with that message in mind. We won't accept arrogance directed to our residents or staff."
Andy said he agreed with the courteous approach. "We've tried that, but sometimes it is hard to take something away without being a little bit forceful, in Tim's defence. I'm sorry that happened, but sometimes they just don't see that moving the approach from there to there is a better option," explained Andy. "We had one incident where the landowner went to the minister, in former Premier Ed Stelmach's riding, and the minister backed us up 100 per cent."
Reeve Don said "The letter sounds like it (access changes)has already been decided and here is what we are going to do. It sounds arrogant."