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Editorial: Highway 7 lights on the mark

There will soon be relief for drivers navigating a busy and often dangerous intersection on Highway 7.

Foothills County, the Town of Okotoks, and Alberta Transportation have come to a three-way agreement to install signals at 16 Street/Big Rock Trail and Highway 7, a site that has been known for a number of serious accidents over the years. The $1.2 million project will be cost-shared with the Province picking up half the tab and the two municipalities splitting the difference.

It’s been a long time coming.

Despite County Coun. Delilah Miller raising safety at the intersection as a point of concern on various platforms – meetings with Alberta Transportation and provincial ministers, at Rural Municipality Association conventions, in intermunicipal committee meetings with the Town of Okotoks, it still took seven years and a whole lot of tenacity to get the go-ahead for the project.

It was a fight she wasn’t willing to give up, and with just cause – the busy intersection saw numerous collisions with drivers not following directional arrows, both before and after the reconfiguration of lanes was completed in 2017.

Some claim driver error causes the issues at16 Street and lights will be a hindrance to highway traffic. While that may be the case, it doesn’t mean the problems don’t exist or that they’ll fix themselves. It was time for the local and provincial government to step in and mitigate the situation.

As Chinook Honey Farm owner Cherie Andrews has witnessed, drivers are either confused or impatient as they approach the intersection, and when someone slows down in the 100 km/h through lane to turn right, motorists behind often veer into the designated left-turn lane to pass rather than hitting the brakes and waiting. There have been rear-ended vehicles turning right, cars struck while passing straight through or turning left, largely because people don’t know how to read the intersection.

Miller is right to celebrate the success of this project going through earlier than anticipated (Alberta Transportation had it slated around number 16 on the priority list).

It may mean slowing down slightly, but with more development coming to the west end of Okotoks and ever-increasing traffic on Highway 7, something had to be done.

Kudos to the County, the Town and the Province for addressing this serious traffic concern. Hopefully we’ll see a reduction in collisions and an increase in highway safety as a result.