A private member's bill in the Alberta Legislature from UCP MLA Searle Turton has proposed to increase speeds on some highways in the province to 120 km/h.
It seems that this debate is garnering attention, with our local MLA Miranda Rosin seeking public feedback on the idea.
By way of our two cents, we don't just oppose this short-sighted proposition, we find it frustrating that this is being debated instead of changes that should be considered to make our highways in the Bow Valley safer.
If you live in Canmore, you may be catching on to what we are putting down. This community lies on the border of the east end of Banff National Park, where the speed limit is 90 km/h along a fully fenced, four-lane divided highway.
Once you leave the national park, the speed limit goes to 110 km/h, and if you are in a rush to get somewhere, it is a welcome change. But if you consider that the reason for limitations inside the park includes the potential for wildlife being on the roadway, it makes less sense.
East of the park gates, through Canmore and all the way to the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, there are wildlife incidents on the highway, there is practically no fencing (save for a section along the Three Sisters Mountain Village areaand Deadman's Flats) and there is a clear need to address this problem.
Year-after-year, a herd of elk that ranges in and around Canmore finds itself criss-crossing this four-lane divided death trap. They get hit, they die, or RCMP and wildlife officers must respond and deal with the injured animal.
A few years ago, a semi-truck struck and killed multiple elk and the carnage stretched along the highway as you drove through Canmore.
While we are told there is money in Budget 2021 for a wildlife overpass east of Lac des Arcs, which is welcome news, this alone is not enough to address the issue at hand.
We need and this community demands comprehensive changes to the Trans-Canada Highway to address these issues. We do not want to wait until someone hits an elk and the driver or passenger in the vehicle is the one that is killed – there have already been close calls and if you don't learn from close calls, you are failing to manage the issue.
We know for a fact that while our community has long called for an investment in solutions – fencing, flashing lights to warn drivers that there are animals on the road, and a reduced speed limit – that lobbying by the transportation industry is the biggest hurdle to overcome.
Time is money and lower speed limits that slow down the semi-trucks and their loads has a cost to the bottom line for this industry.
However, there is also a cost to having an unmitigated four-lane highway with a speed limit of 110 km/h in this valley where we claim to coexist with wildlife. These are cumulative costs that this government and our MLA should be taking time to fully understand.
Furthermore, with a limited land base in Canmore, our community has developed in places and spaces that are available, regardless of them being less than perfect. That includes along this very busy highway.
Noise levels from the TCH in Canmore would go down if the speed limit goes down and noise pollution has serious and cumulative health effects on our community. This is just another reason to reconsider highway speeds locally, and in opposition to the idea that speed limits should be increased.