Other factors affecting the increase include last year’s road construction north of Valemount, which lowered the highway in order to raise the height allowance of the railway bridge to allow more heavy transports with previous height restrictions to come through.
Then there are other projects, such as the twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which is creating additional activity.
But the large number of semi-trucks that pass through has always been a concern for some residents and raised challenges for the Village of Valemount, especially when it comes to parking habits.
This was the case with semis that park at the pullouts at Loseth Rd. north of the Village, potentially obstructing the vision of drivers wanting to exit from that road and turn on to the Highway, especially when there is poor visibility due to weather conditions.
Truckers also park along Karas Drive, the secondary road that runs in front of the Petro Canada gas station down to the corner of Tempo. While they are not technically obstructing other traffic, the sight demonstrates the dire need for additional parking space within Village limits that can accommodate large trucks and spillover traffic, especially when highway closures due to serious accidents or inclement weather leave them grounded.
There have also been comments that the speed limit of 70 kph upon entering Valemount from the north might not allow sufficient time for highway traffic to slow down before reaching the turnoff to the Village, especially with the advent of an additional left-hand turnoff once the new Esso/Tim Horton’s is completed.
In past Council meetings, Mayor Jeannette Townsend and Council have commented on the growing need to see Highway 5 eventually twinned. In the least, even additional passing lanes would improve the already-heavy traffic flow. As it stands, the highway is known for its number of traffic incidents.
When questioned about the concerns, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) provided the following response.
In regards to the anticipated increase of traffic as a result of the VGD resort, the Ministry stated that it has been working with planners of the resort throughout the Master Agreement phase to have the appropriate engineering conducted by the proponents and confirmed by Ministry engineers with respect to highway traffic, operations and interactions with the development.
“For any project including one like this one, safety is always our Ministry’s number one priority. All aspects have been reviewed by professional engineers and currently, with the forecast volumes of road users, the highway corridor does not warrant significant changes to accommodate anticipated use.”
According to the MOTI, a recent Traffic Impact study conducted in conjunction with the VGD Resort Municipality showed that current traffic speeds are at a safe level.
“The existing speed zones on the highway are designed to step traffic down from 100 kph to 70 kph in appropriately measured speeds with significant spacing and good visibility, remaining consistent with good engineering practice and consistent with the requests put forward by the Village of Valemount in the past.”
The Ministry also stated that the safety improvements at Loseth Road carried out last year (which included the addition of concrete barriers) were designed to eliminate the concern raised regarding sight distance, moving the stop line out so that traffic can pull out sufficiently to see any approaching traffic on the highway.
According to some residents, however, sight obstruction still depends on how many trucks are parked there, especially if parked alongside each other, and at times their headlights interfere with visibility when it is dark.
The Ministry also pointed out that five passing lanes (at Blue River, Chappell North & South, Camp Creek, and Vinsula) have already been constructed along the route in the last three years, and two additional passing lanes near Darfield will be coming to construction soon to help resolve traffic congestion and safety.
“With all of this work, Ministry staff will continue to monitor the area and adjust as needed to ensure traffic is moving safely and efficiently both now and in the future with the growth of the new municipality.”
According to Village of Valemount CAO Adam Davey, both the MOTI and the Village of Valemount co-operate in monitoring the highway. However, when it comes to jurisdiction, the main highway is the responsibility of the MOTI while the Village is responsible for the side or secondary roads.
Regardless of whether the situation appears to be under control for the time being, the concerns raised point out the obvious – that probably sooner than later, more changes or additions to lanes and parking spaces will be required.
The ideal, of course, would be a truck stop/truck wash that could provide long-distance drivers with access to meals and even showers, plenty of space to park their rigs, as well as a truck wash facility.
While some might shudder at the thought, the reality is, Valemount and area is going to grow, and probably faster than most might think.