SUNDRE – The permanent redesign of the Highway 27-Main Avenue corridor including the three concrete mini-roundabouts has been pushed back.
Alberta Transportation had announced last summer during a public presentation at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #223 in Sundre that the Highway 27-Main Avenue overlay project with permanent roundabouts would be completed throughout the course of this construction season.
That timeline was delayed in light of the municipality’s need to first upgrade its own infrastructure.
“The roundabout projects have been postponed until 2024 due to utility work that needs to be completed in advance of the roundabout construction,” an Alberta Transportation (AT) spokesperson told the Albertan on May 17 in response to emailed question.
“The town (is) upgrading underground utilities under Highway 27 in the downtown area,” they said. “The utility work is in addition to right-of-way purchase and design work we were doing at Centre Street as well, which AECOM are working on.”
AECOM is a multinational infrastructure consultant that was contracted by the province’s department responsible for highways to help engineer and design the project, which as of the last available estimates was expected to cost about $11.5 million.
According to publicly available documentation about the project on the provincial government’s website, the overlay project will feature the following improvements: a single lane roundabout at the Highway 27/22/584 intersection on the west side of town; permanent mini roundabouts at the intersections on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th streets west; intersection improvements at 1st Street West; pavement rehabilitation; as well as improvements to curbs, gutters, sidewalks and lighting.
Following public engagement in 2022, additional improvements were identified including intersection upgrades at Centre Street, the Red Deer River bridge approach slabs, signalization of Highway 760 intersection, waterline relocations and additional lighting improvements, reads part of the document.
Jim Hall, the municipality’s operations manager, offered further elaboration about the situation.
“There was a plan to try and do all this work – the municipality and AT – in one shot,” Hall told the Albertan on May 18 during a follow-up phone interview. “But we’d be overlapping each other and basically without a technical term, kind of been in each other’s way.”
The work that the municipality must first tackle primarily involves upgrading fresh water lines, he said.
“We have aging infrastructure underground; particularly with our waterlines,” he said.
“With the new overlay program and the design of the roundabouts being well constructed with concrete, our concern was trying to deal with a valve or pipe leak that would be under that area.”
While the town crew can typically go in and carry out repairs as required when issues emerge, he said the goal in this instance was to avoid a situation where freshly paved road along the high load corridor ends up being ripped right back up.
“In a nutshell, we want to get that updated so we have a 20- to 50-year lifespan on our waterworks and not have to interrupt flow of traffic or issues with the roundabouts or the overlay project completion,” he said.
“The plan is to replace valving and waterlines that are in the roundabouts currently at some point in time this summer, if not late summer. And then with the lines in between the roundabouts, we would do a technical replacement of that as well.”
The waterlines represent the bulk of the required infrastructure upgrades the municipality must first complete before the overlay project can get underway.
“There is some wastewater work that may be considered at around Centre Street,” he said.
“But we’re just going through that detail right now. For the most part, our concentration is on getting the waterlines updated, and anything that would cause us to come back in within the two- to five- or even 10-year range to do repairs because of faulty infrastructure.”
There is also a gas line at 4th Street NW that will need to be readjusted, he said.
“It’s not a huge project,” he said, adding the work essentially involves dropping the line down by roughly another metre and a half to ensure the utility is cleared out of the way when the permanent concrete roundabout is constructed at that intersection.
While a specific timeline to complete those upgrades was not etched in stone when he spoke with the Albertan, Hall said the objective is to complete everything before the overlay project gets underway.
“The onus is to try and get that work done prior to the overlay getting kicked off next year,” he said. “The general plan is to get our stuff out of the way in time so that they can come in and do their construction.”
Barring any further delays, the Highway 27-Main Avenue high load corridor’s updated construction timeframe now outlines plans to put the project to tender following this summer with construction getting underway in the spring of 2024 and wrapping up later that fall, according to AT’s documentation on the provincial government’s website.