Finance Minister Travis Toews released the UCP government's first budget Thursday. While it was a tight budget, Cochrane and area will be reaping some benefits.
The provincial budget contains allocations for $597 million for highway twinning, widening and expansion. The 2019 provincial construction program identifies an interchange upgrade on Highway 1A on the northwest boundary of Cochrane and bridge replacement at the Big Hill Creek on Highway 1A at the north boundary of Cochrane.
This is good news Cochrane.
“We are excited that our efforts may be yielding results, and this is encouraging news for Cochrane,” said Mayor Jeff Genung. “Until there is equipment on site, we will continue to drive home to the province the vital nature of this interchange to the region.”
Since the budget was announced, Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie has confirmed to Genung that the project will be in the 2019 provincial budget and includes the requested highway twinning extension to Sunset Boulevard.
“This project is a significant step forward to reducing traffic congestion, increasing safety, and increasing accessibility to our economic and tourism corridor,” Guthrie said.
“I am thrilled that our government recognizes how important this project is for not only our community, but also for the economic development of our province.”
The status is identified as a design, but the Town is hopeful that construction could commence as early as 2020. The 1A/22 intersection has been an outstanding concern for the Town of Cochrane. The intersection sees more than 27,000 vehicles per day. Highway 22 is a main economic corridor for the oil and gas industry and Highway 1A is a key tourism corridor that connects Cochrane to Calgary and Banff National Park.
The corridor is also an alternate route in the case of Trans-Canada Highway closures or traffic accidents.
The intersection has been been on the radar for the last few years. Most recently, it was recognized in the recent North Calgary Regional Transportation study. The project was ranked 10th of 166 projects evaluated.
Alberta Transportation has involved Town administration on the intersection design, which is more than 90% complete. An archaeological study was recently commissioned and conducted last summer.
Council, Administration and MLA Peter Guthrie met last month in Edmonton with Provincial Transportation Minister Ric McIver to continue advocating for this vital project.
“Minister McIver was supportive and recognized the importance of this project to the region,” said Genung. “By working together with MLA Peter Guthrie we were well positioned to champion this project.”
Alberta will cut its operating spending by $1.3 billion, or 2.8 per cent, over the next four years, with an eye to balancing the budget by 2022-23.