A brief but meaningful celebration was held to mark the beginning of the construction of the Hwy. 1A-22 interchange in Cochrane by members of town council on May 15.
A little biodegradable confetti and a bottle of champagne that has been chilling since the project was announced in 2017 were used to mark the occasion at the Historic Cochrane Ranche with construction crews clearly visible in the background.
The champagne was purely ceremonial. After being popped by the mayor, each councillor had a chance to give it a shake and let it overflown onto the ground.
Having a hard time containing his excitement, Mayor Jeff Genung says he's proud of the group for not taking their foot off the gas to make sure the government followed through on its commitment. Along the way, it was able to work with the government to fill two important sections of the highways to benefit traffic flow. When completed, the east-west Hwy. 1A will be four lanes all the way through Cochrane. As well, Hwy. 22 from the interchange to Sunset Ridge will be four lanes.
Construction crews have been on the job for about two weeks. The $95 million project is expected to be completed in 2025.
Town CAO Mike Derricott says government officials have told the town a temporary intersection is expected to be completed by August.
"So what will eventually be the on-ramps and off-ramps from Hwy. 1A and Hwy. 22 are going to come northward and meet at the base of the hill, where they'll build a temporary intersection for any east-west bound traffic," he's been told. "Then they'll be able to get to work on lowering Highway 1A because it eventually is going to go under the underpass there."
"All indications are that the temporary intersection will work, if not as effectively or even a little more effectively than the existing intersection. It will provide some temporary relief, hopefully, but the big picture is obviously going to be exciting."
Deputy Mayor Alex Reed and councillors Marni Fedeyko, Susan Flowers, and Tara McFadden were in attendance. Long-time CAO Julian deCocq was also invited. It was one of the projects he worked on while serving the town for 22 years before retiring in 2017.
"It's just been so long in the making that it just doesn't even feel real that we're here celebrating it," says Mayor Genung. "When I was elected in 2017, it was a big deal in that election campaign. People were asking about it at every door I knocked on. They said, you've got to get that 1A-22 done, and I would say, well, it's not our project to do, but we will do what we can."
The project had already been announced early that year on Apr. 7, 2017, by then Alberta Transportation minister Brian Mason. Cochrane, though, had been down that path before.
"This community has seen this interchange project announced, funded, and taken away multiple times," says Genung. "So that was why I was saving this bottle of champagne until actual dirt was flying and we could see the province literally in action. Nothing is really secure until it happens, and here we can hear the squeaks of the excavator tracks behind us, dirt's moving, and in a couple of years we'll be standing on a new interchange."
Genung credits the intergovernmental work of the town for making sure it happened.
"We were in Edmonton a lot banging on the door with multiple transportation ministers, different premiers, different governments, and here we are standing today having a little bit of a ceremony to make it a big deal. We just got to do a better job of celebrating these things. So it was our way of celebrating the day that we were all waiting for."