Canmore’s elected officials think there are more viable options to extending the Legacy Trail outside the national park than building a new $3.1 million overpass.
Council was updated last week on work being done to connect the Legacy Trail, which ends at the East Gates, to Harvie Heights.
An option of extending the trail alongside the Trans-Canada Highway all the way to Canmore was mentioned in the presentation, but without a cost estimate.
Councillor Hans Helder asked why that is the case when a trail would cost far less than building a bridge.
“This seems to me to be a reasonable solution being tossed out without consideration,” Helder said.
Municipal engineer Bill Luka said no cost estimates were provided, because Alberta Transportation would not permit that trail option and has shown no inclination of changing its policy regarding trails adjacent to highways.
“They did make some concessions to allow us to use the right of way to the (Harvie Heights overpass) bridge,” Luka said.
He added there is also a section along that distance where Alberta Transportation and CP Rail right of ways abut each other.
Mayor Ron Casey expressed disbelief that the trail could be built next to the highway in the National Park and not here.
“It is fine Alberta Transportation has a rule book and wonderful they enjoy sticking to it, but at some time there has to be some logic and common sense,” Casey said.
Helder asked if the policy has to do with the speed at which traffic travels on the highway and if a solution could be to reduce it from 110 km/h.
Casey said in the past the municipality has asked the province to do just that and was denied. He said the response was that the reduction would increase costs for the transportation sector by having trucks slow down.
“Maybe it is time to bring that conversation up again,” said the mayor.
Luka was in front of council to provide an update on the work of the Bow Corridor Regional Mobility Partnership.
The group consists of multiple government agencies from the province, Parks Canada and municipalities in the Bow Valley.
In 2004 the partnership created the vision of a trail connecting Banff to Canmore to move recreational users off the highway shoulder.
In 2007, the Town of Canmore and the MD of Bighorn partnered to construct the first section of trail between Canmore and Harvie Heights.
Luka said without funding, additional work on the trail was not a possibility until, in 2009, Parks Canada announced $6.75 million for the 26-kilometre Legacy Trail.
“It is important to recognize funding for the trail was provided by the federal government as part of its stimulus package,” he said. “Without that, it would have been difficult for the Mobility Partnership to raise these funds.”
The problem the partnership is faced with today is there is a missing link between those two trails, which creates a safety concern as recreational users are crossing the Trans-Canada Highway.
Luka said the group has met over the last year on options to correct that problem. He said the objective is to find the most practical solution with the least impact that is agreeable to all stakeholders.
A number of options were considered, but the only one that had support from all stakeholders is to build another overpass across the highway adjacent to the current structure. The estimated cost is $3.1 million.
In the interim, said Luka, Alberta Transportation will support using the current overpass until a permanent solution is found.
The temporary solution comes at a price tag of approximately $700,000 and includes extending the trail adjacent to the eastbound lanes of the TCH to the current overpass.