It may come as a surprise to some of you readers that last week was my third anniversary at The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer. What a “three years” it has been too.
I’m not sure if I confided in the readers that when I started work here three years ago, I was still living in St. Albert. As Black Press needed me to start work right away, I commuted from St. Albert to Millet for the month of June, 2015 and moved to my new Wetaskiwin digs in July.
It turned out the commute was about an hour one-way; I tried different routes (Devon, Whitemud, Beaumont, Wayne Gretzky Drive, Anthony Henday) to see if one of them was shorter. No dice. Any route is roughly the same time, even though some were slightly longer.
So I settled on simply heading up Hwy. #2A to Leduc, getting on the Hwy. #2 freeway, driving to the Henday ring-road and taking that multi-lane road around the west side of Edmonton. “Even though it was rush hour,” thought I, “the Henday will be the quickest route. That’s why multi-lane ring roads are built in the first place.”
It took perhaps one or two days of taking the westbound off-ramp from Calgary Trail or Gateway Blvd. or whatever you like to call it (I also noticed the City of Edmonton loves to give multiple names to a single road) to the Henday to realize there was a serious problem for motorists heading west at that time of day: gridlock.
At first I thought there was a car accident, but saw no smoke or emergency vehicles. As a journalist, I’ve seen a fair number of crashes in my time.
Nope, it was just plain heavy traffic heading into a merge that was completely inadequate for the volume. I took the off-ramp from Hwy. #2 heading towards the Henday, and anyone who’s driven it knows it is a long speed curve that appears to have a lot of room on it for stacked traffic. By the time I finally got to the Henday I saw what was going on.
It was solid traffic coming from the east, while the off-ramp doesn’t lead into it’s own lane; rather, it ends in a short merge lane. So rush hour traffic combined with b-trains and cement trucks, which are forced to stop on the ramp because westbound rtaffic refuses to let them merge, have to slowly get moving again and merge out of that little space while dealing with oncoming traffic. Good idea.
It should have been obvious as new neighbourhoods were developing on the southwest corner of Edmonton that this situation wasn’t working. The first time I drove through it I saw what was happening. The simple fact an entire off-ramp was standing still is evidence someone, somewhere, screwed up badly.
In my opinion, with the multiple lanes coming from the east, half a kilometre back the far right-hand lane should have been dedicated as a merge lane to get the traffic off the Calgary Trail curve and moving quickly onto the Henday. This idea may have slowed traffic a bit, but that’s okay when you have that many vehicles in that small a space. It’s obviously better than having dozens and dozens and dozens of vehicles sitting on the off-ramp back to Calgary Trail. Problem solved.
Now the problem of thousands of vehicles stopping in the middle of the Henday for no reason at all…well, that’s a topic for another day.
Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the newspaper.