By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Good news was delivered to Morinville by Transportation Minister Luc Ouellette and Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Ken Kowalski Monday afternoon. Morinville will get a second overpass and will be getting it soon. The diamond overpass is set to break ground in the fall of this year with a full completion date of the third or fourth quarter of 2013.
It is anticipated the project, currently in the detailed engineering stage, will greatly reduce traffic accidents at the intersection of Highway 2 and Cardiff Road. Traffic on that stretch of highway has increased more than 30 per cent over the past decade. The intersection accounts for eight or nine traffic collisions annually.
MLA and speaker of the Legislative Assembly Ken Kowalski said the Cardiff corner situation is something that has been brought to his attention many times between the Mayor, his daughter-in-law who lives in the area, and constituents. But above that, he is familiar with the current intersection, using it many times himself.
Morinville Mayor Lloyd Bertschi was credited Monday by Kowalski for being the mainstay in lobbying the province to do something about the hazardous corner for residents. But Bertschi and council was as surprised as many in the room by just what the remedy for the intersection was going to be.
“It’s great to have it finally announced, Bertschi said of the Cardiff Corner decision, adding the announcement had been originally scheduled for May 15 but had to be postponed because of the Slave Lake wildfire. “I saw a back-of-the-hanky drawing a few months ago and it was a section of improvements – not an overpass. So it was quite a surprise when it was announced it was going to be an overpass today.”
But while delighted at another overpass for Morinville, the mayor said he would not have been disappointed had it been something lesser. “It really was about public safety,” he said, noting that any solution would have made the intersection safer than it presently is.” Certainly the overpass addresses that in spades.”
Although other alternatives had been discussed over the years, Transportation Minister Luc Ouellette believes the overpass is the way to go. “Anytime that you can do a full interchange, it definitely is the safest type of road that you can have,” he said. “It cuts down on the road rage for one thing because nobody is waiting. You are always moving. That’s probably the biggest problem we have out there. Everybody is impatient. We all have a million places we have to be and we’re all in a rush.”
But the decision to go with an overpass is as much about growthand safety as it is distracted or aggressive drivers. The minister said the full overpass interchange will help with the future growth in the region both in economic and family terms.
“This province isn’t going to slow down,” he said. “We’re thankful to have a province with the resources we have, but that means that we’ve got a lot of economic development here and that growth brings new families in, and with this interchange, we’ll try to make sure that everybody gets home to their families each and every night.”
Ouellette said the design of Cardiff Corner was a major factor in choosing the overpass option. “I just wasn’t convinced, and Mr. Kowalski wasn’t convinced, that all those other phases was going to do the job that it should do and make it that much safer,” Ouellette said, adding it was an opinion shared by the engineers and safety people in his department. “We just decided that somehow we would make it work and we found some of the money in the department and we’re going to get it done.”
Although not in the government budget, Ouellette said many of the projects construction projects have been costing the province less than anticipated over the past couple years, a situation that freed up some money to move forward with a diamond overpass for Morinville.
Sturgeon County pleased with the decision
Also present at Monday’s announcement was Sturgeon County Mayor Don Rigney, together with members of council and staff. Rigney said he was pleased to hear about the upcoming infrastructure project.
“We all want our families to come home safe,” Rigney said, adding he had some near misses at the intersection of highway 2 and Cardiff Road. “I’ve seen many, especially at rush hour, so it’s a tremendous announcement. I think it’s great for the community and the region.”
Rigney said the overpass will be a large plus for the eventual alignment for the west bypass to the Anthony Henday. “It has a big impact, not only for Morinville, but for the whole west side of the county,” he said. “It’s huge.”