Province looking into lights on busy highway

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There may be more changes coming to a busy Highway 7 intersection between Okotoks and Black Diamond.

MD Coun. Delilah Miller was at the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties convention in November when she received word of a collision at the intersection of Highway 7 and Big Rock Trail. There have been many accidents at the site over the past year, including a fatality in July.

Miller used the incident to lobby for changes at the location during a meeting with Alberta Transportation officials.

“We met with Transportation and they knew about it as well,” she said. “I rallied them once again, I said I would like lights put in, that would be my ideal ask.”

Miller has been fighting for safety improvements at the intersection since being elected to MD of Foothills council in 2013. In August, Alberta Transportation re-painted lines on Highway 7, making right lanes through-lanes and creating left-turn lanes at Highway 7 and Big Rock Trail / 16 Street W.

Miller suggested another possibility could be reducing the speed to 80 km/h through the area. The move would extend the reduced speed limit at the Highway 7 and Secondary Highway 783 junction, at Okotoks, further west along the road, she said.

“They promised me they’d look into the light issue, which would be my preference, but even lowering the speed in the meantime would help,” said Miller. “It’s just such a dangerous intersection.”

She said there are different scenarios on the table that could make traffic lights more feasible, such as having other municipalities help out with the cost. The intersection is near the newly-annexed Okotoks lands and will need to be addressed as the town builds out, she said.

Cherie Andrews, owner of nearby Chinook Honey Farm, said she hopes to see traffic lights installed sooner than later.

“Unfortunately, the slower speed probably is going to get ignored until lights do go in,” said Andrews. “I don’t think it’s going to be very effective, just by lowering the speed limit. It’s a little less possible to ignore things when there’s an actual light involved.”

She said there has been a very slight improvement to the intersection since the new lines were painted this summer, but some new problems have been created.

According to Andrews, it’s easier to determine drivers’ intentions as they approach the intersection because they’ve committed to one lane or the other. However, people coming up on Highway 7 from 16 Street or Big Rock Trail who are unfamiliar with the road can’t see how the lanes are dedicated, she said.

“It says, ‘New,’ but they don’t know what that means,” said Andrews. “If they’re still thinking they merge into that closest lane, that it’s a merge lane, they get a pretty rude surprise when someone’s travelling over 100 km/h behind them.”

Another issue occurs when drivers on Highway 7 are trying to turn right onto 16 Street or Big Rock Trail, she said.

“Oftentimes people are travelling 100 km/h-plus, coming up behind them, and then using the left turn-off lanes to pass,” said Andrews. “We’ve created a new problem, a whole new problem just the opposite of what it was.”

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