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Bighorn proceeding with new Harvie Heights interchange engineering design

“We are dealing with highway speeds because it is a highway off-ramp, it is going to require safety audits and we don’t want to rush the process"

HARVIE HEIGHTS – The MD is moving a step closer to redesigning the interchange at Harvie Heights in an effort to make driving in the area safer for residents and visitors.

The MD of Bighorn has retained the engineering firm WSP to conduct the engineering design and manage the construction project and infrastructure services.

Bill Luka, director of engineering, said the interchange has two conflict points that are high-risk areas for collisions.

“It is confusing. It has conflict points where there could be an accident,” Luka said. “Alberta Transportation and the MD worked together to implement interim improvements that included changing some signage and pavement markings.”

Luka said the interim improvements worked well, and served their time, but they did not address the core issues of the intersection.

Locally, the interchange is referred to as The Birdcage, due to its unconventional layout and design.

“The highway off-ramp weaves between Harvie Heights Road and is rather unique and the reference to The Birdcage is quite fitting,” Luka said.

It is expected construction will begin in late summer, or potentially in 2024. The reason for the delay is the high traffic nature of the area.

“We are dealing with highway speeds because it is a highway off-ramp. It is going to require safety audits and we don’t want to rush the process,” Luka said.

Alberta Transportation had the intersection at Harvie Heights with Highway 1 as a safety concern in 2005.

“The unconventional layout of the intersection contributes to the key safety concerns at the intersection,” the assessment stated. “The intersection does not conform to any of Alberta Transportation’s standard intersection types. Compared with a standard T-intersection, the existing layout contains more conflict points.

“In addition, the unconventional form of traffic control might increase the potential for non-compliance and wrong-way movements among unfamiliar drivers.”

When a staff report was brought to council in early 2022 it was estimated the project would cost about $888,000.

A McElhanney report at the time estimated the intersection had a peak hour capacity of 825 trips until upgrades are needed.

The project will be funded by the MD with approved provincial funding. The improvements will also accommodate additional development within the highway commercial area and developers in that area will be required to pay a developer contribution.

“The MD is continuing to partner with Alberta Transportation to move forward and realign the intersection as a T-intersection,” Luka said. “It will include some left and right turn widening from the highway, and also changing the yield signs to stop signs.”

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