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EDITORIAL: Cart comes before the horse on Highway 2

Closing intersections long before Highway 2 interchange will create unnecessary hardships.
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Traffic flies past the intersection of Highway 2 and 370 Avenue on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (Brent Calver/Western Wheel)

Timing is everything, or so the saying goes, which is definitely the case when it comes to the pending intersection closures along Highway 2. 

Few are likely to argue that at-grade intersections along an increasingly busy stretch of highway pose a safety concern as turning on or off the thoroughfare, or cutting across it, while traffic travels at 110 km/h or more invites some precarious situations, to say the least. The notion of closing the three intersections in favour of a single interchange at 338 Avenue makes sense on many levels. 

At-grade intersections work in remote stretches where traffic volumes are modest and an interchange would be overkill, but that’s not the case in these parts any more as the region south of the city has grown significantly over the last couple of decades and will continue to do so in the years ahead. We’ve simply outgrown at-grade crossings. 

Closing the intersections – or at least allowing only right turn access – is the logical next step but doing so years before the interchange becomes a reality is where that logic goes off the rails. The intersections are scheduled to be closed next summer in conjunction with paving work, but the best-case scenario for the interchange is three years, although it’s more likely we’re talking five years or longer before that project is completed. There’s no firm timeline at this point so it’s anyone’s guess when it will be finished. 

In the meantime, residents and businesses on the east side of the highway will have their direct access to Okotoks cut off, forcing them -- and in the case of the businesses, their customers and employees -- to make lengthy and time-consuming detours, should they be willing to do so. It’s more than likely the closures will reshape traffic patterns -- and it won’t be for the better. 

The intersection closures and interchange construction are overdue, but undertaking one well before the other is simply creating unnecessary hardships.