Editorial - Growing Pains

Dianne St. Jean

During Tuesday evening’s Village Council Meeting in Valemount, Councillor Peter Reimer raised the concern over the high amount of traffic on Highway 5, especially north of the Village past Canoe and up to Blackman Road.

Highway 5 is already a main arterial route, and as the Village grows the risk factor for traffic incidents rises.

Part of the concern mentioned is that there is inadequate signage to indicate to traffic where there are upcoming turn-offs, making it hazardous for vehicles to slow down in time to make those turn-offs with heavy and high speed traffic right behind them.

It was agreed that deceleration lanes are desperately needed in order for vehicles to safely make those turns, and it was suggested that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) be contacted to begin discussions on how to best deal with the growth in traffic.

As it stands the highway is already busy, but add to that upcoming construction in the fall for the Kinder Morgan pipeline project, including the addition of a worker accommodation camp and industrial use along the highway (the old golf course location), and increased tourism traffic in general. The highway is also becoming more popular as a main commercial transportation route between Alberta and the south coast.

Then there’s the continued problem corner at Loseth Road as noted by Councillor Torgerson, where, despite efforts of the MOTI to facilitate and improve sight distance for traffic wanting to enter the highway, a problem still remains with semi-trucks using that location on both sides of the highway as a rest stop, with the potential of impairing vision.

Aside from Village growth, the village also appears to be unprepared for the unexpected things that, given our location, should be expected. 

We live in an area where we know traffic can easily be shut down due to highway obstructions caused by weather, slides, fires, or traffic accidents.

We certainly saw a healthy dose of this during the last few months with the influx of traffic from people either being evacuated due to fires, or leaving of their own free will. There simply is no specially designated spot for travellers, especially truckers, to park.

I believe that Valemount should consider a spill-over area for such occurrences. We are not a big city that can easily swallow extra traffic with parking accommodations such as a Walmart parking lot. RV Parks may be able to take in a certain amount of extra travellers, but that does not solve the problem for large commercial vehicles. Even McBride encountered a problem this year due to the wildfires, with traffic numbers for Highway 16 estimated to be eight to ten times higher than the norm.

On the bright side, these challenges are arising because Valemount’s popularity and place on the world map is also rising, and that’s something to celebrate.

But just as you can’t expect a growing kid to wear the same pair of shoes for years, alas, Valemount will have to find ways to fit into its growth spurt.