Closure of intersection at Hwy. 8 and 101 Street S.W. upsets area residents
The Alberta government is set to permanently close a major Calgary intersection later this month due to safety concerns, but the decision is receiving mixed reviews from area residents.
Access to Highway 8 from 101 Street S.W. will be closed on Sept. 17 because drivers in the area are continuing to make dangerous U-Turns on the highway.
The intersection itself was already partially closed in June for construction and only allows access onto 101 Street for westbound drivers turning right.
Drivers are also currently able to exit 101 Street westbound onto Highway 8, but that will soon change.
Elbow Valley resident Robert Allen is welcoming the decision as he says several drivers are making reckless maneuvers and increasing the risk of collisions.
“I can see people turning around making U-turns up and down in the middle of the highway or the middle of the road, but all they’re doing is turning around and they could get side swiped,” Allen said.
“It’s really a bad deal, I see speeding all the time and it’s a bad situation. I’ve had one accident there myself and my daughter-in-law had a rear-end collision already.”
According to the Calgary Police Service, there have been 35 collisions along the stretch of Highway 8 near 101 Street S.W. over the course of the last five years, including nine which occurred in 2020 alone.
In a statement, Rob Williams, press secretary for the Alberta ministry of transportation, says the permanent closure was originally slated for Oct. 1 to allow for construction on a new interchange.
“Moving the date up a few weeks was made out of concern for the safety of all motorists,” Williams said.
“Alberta Transportation received complaints of drivers making illegal U-turns, putting themselves and others in danger. The decision to shut down the intersection sooner also means motorists must change their routes earlier than planned.”
Williams adds that the province’s contractors are working directly with emergency services to ensure access is available whenever needed.
There is currently no access to eastbound Highway 8 to northbound 101 Street S.W. or southbound 101 Street S.W. to eastbound Highway 8. Detours are in place at 69 Street S.W. and 17 Avenue S.W.
EMERGENCY ACCESS CONCERNS
Despite the province’s commitment to engaging with emergency response teams, Rocky View County Fire Services is continuing to express major concerns when it comes to accessing the area.
“We’re currently waiting for that to happen, but even when it does, it’s a temporary solution,” read a statement to CTV News.
“The Fire Services team has worked diligently to map out all the shortcuts and dispatch options available, but in the end this access closure does add approximately five to 12 minutes to response times, depending on the time of day and the location we’re responding to.”
Rocky View County Fire Services adds that a permanent closure of 101 Street will mean permanent delays for emergency response times in the future.
President of the Pinebrook Estates Homeowners Association, Greg Josiak, says he was shocked by the permanent closure and says the province’s original plans were to put temporary lights at the intersection.
“That would have been a perfect solution, but instead they shut the road down and there’s thousands of people who use that intersection every single day and it’s become a terrible spot because everyone is doing U-Turns and it’s more dangerous than it was before,” he said.
“Alberta Transportation just will not talk to us or any of the community associations that have been badgering them for months to tell us what the reason was for not putting lights there. It’s a nuisance and they’ve blocked off our access to the fire department.”
Josiak adds that thousands of kids in the Elbow Valley area are now struggling to get to school on time as well because of the closure, which has pushed travel times back anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes.
Elbow Valley resident, Michelle Driscoll agrees that delays for school children are a major concern.
“A school bus that used to be able to take 101 now has to go all over the west side to get to springbank and the dangers that it brings to certain areas with winter coming on are serious,” she said.
Community Associations in the area are continuing to press Alberta Transportation for more information regarding the closure with the hope that a solution can be found to ensure quick response times and access to amenities.