The Hwy. 1A-22 interchange project has gone to tender and construction is expected to start in the spring.

Devin Dreeshen, Alberta Transportation and Economic Corridors minister, was in town to provide first-hand news this morning (Dec. 16) at The Station.

He says it will be completed in different phases that will take about three years to complete.

"It's just a huge announcement, not just for the residents and businesses in Cochrane, but even just for the broader provincial economy of improving tourism, ease of access, and safer roads for people in the area. All around a great, exciting, long-awaited project, but just happy to finally announce it."

He knows what it's like to hit a brick wall of traffic coming down the hill into Cochrane and be left waiting, and waiting, and waiting...

"This project is just a great overall story because obviously, we want tourists, Albertans, and others to enjoy our great outdoors, but we also want to make sure that people are travelling safely and people that live in those areas on their way to the mountains are safe as well, so that's why this project is important not just for economic reasons but also to improve the safety for families living in the area."

Dreeshen says funding for the gap 1 and 2 projects that were added to the scope of construction is not part of the project's current budget. He says they are working to have it included in the province's 2023-24 budget.

"Stay tuned for additional announcements," he says. "I'm just so proud of the advocacy work of the local MLAs and mayors in this area to finally get to this stage today."

Gap 1 involves doubling the lanes on Hwy. 1A west of the Totem Building, 630 1st St. W. to the interchange. Gap 2 involved doubling the lanes on Hwy. 22 to Sunset Boulevard, the main entrance to the Sunset Ridge neighbourhood, from the interchange

Months ago, Airdrie-Cochrane MLA broke the news that it would take a bit longer to get started due to negotiations on pipeline right-of-ways. Part of the agreement reached includes financial compensation.

"The agreements have been finalized for Hwy. 22 and 1A, so that's been taken care of, but I can't mention any dollar amount," says Dreeshan.

When first announced in 2017, the project was estimated to cost between $40 and $50 million. With so much water under the bridge since then and current inflationary conditions, Dreeshan declined to speculate on the final price tag.

"Out of respect for taxpayers' dollars, we don't want to splash around any numbers because that may have an unintended effect of increasing the overall costs to taxpayers," he says.

He says the final costs will be announced in the future.

More coverage on the announcement to follow.