We've all heard the announcements and updates over the years on the Hwy. 1A-22 interchange project.

Frustration often boiled over as people make the commute home from work or try to move around on the weekend.

Yet for Mayor Jeff Genung, this was the announcement he was waiting to hear.

Since first elected, Mayor Genung has been leading a diplomatic charge to get the government moving on the commitment to complete the interchange. From his younger days, he knew full well the town had received empty promises dating back a quarter century and was determined to make sure it didn't happen again.

Genung worked closely with MLA Peter Guthrie to first make sure the project was included in budget estimates. Then, the push was on to include additional pieces to greatly enhance its impact. And finally, the town fulfilled its obligation to move its utilities from the corridor and then started moving earth on behalf of the province.

"It was a bit of a gamble on a hope and a prayer," Genung admits, "but we've had our MLA on board right from the beginning. The ministry had been optimistic that it would happen, but we'd heard that before for years."

"So we had to do something different and break the ground on our own," he continued. "That's why I feel kind of strange today to be announcing it once again, but really, this is the announcement I've been waiting for."

Transportation and Economic Corridors minister Devin Dreeshen was in town today (Dec. 16) to announce the tender has been issued and construction will start in the spring of 2023.

Mayor Genung handed him and Peter Guthrie, Airdrie-Cochrane MLA and Energy minister, a shovel to symbolize that the project is now in the province's hands.

He also brought a bottle of bubbly but will save it for the time being as he prepared to advocate for additional transportation projects. 

Like Genung, MLA Guthrie acknowledged just how many announcements have been made.

"It's funny, it seems like we kept having these announcements around 1A and 22. This is a project that is probably 10 years in the making. I think there's a lot of people who have been excited about this for a long time."

He says signing utility agreements was the final stumbling block.

"I think of this from a personal perspective of being a resident all these years. When I moved here, there were 15,000 people and there was a need for that project at that time, and here we are now at 33,000. It's done nothing except put a strain on the community, as well as commercial and tourism traffic."

"I'm just happy from a personal perspective to be able to see it's getting done. To have been able to play a part in having this completed feels pretty good."

Never one to miss a moment to advocate, Genung pointed to other important highway projects in the Cochrane area identified by a transportation study of the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB).

"Cochrane had four in the top 15. You're about to begin on one of those and that leaves three. So, Minister, we'll get to know each other a lot better as Cochrane is going to continue the efforts to advocate for even more transportation and infrastructure improvements in our region."

He says the comment wasn't meant with any disrespectful comment, but that the reality is there is more work to be done on major corridors in the region.

Guthrie doesn't hesitate to encourage Genung to continue pushing.

"We know how long it took to get this deal done so that advocacy needs to start right now, and Jeff and I will be working together on that, for sure."

Guthrie believes Genung's approach is effective.

"I think the way that Jeff operates is very collaborative, it's very positive and solutions-oriented, and that's what you want to see. You want to have someone that you can work with, and I think that's why we work so well together and that's why he gets the response he does from the Government of Alberta."

Long-time Cochrane CAO Julian deCocq was in attendance. He led the town's administration from 1995 to 2017, and the interchange was one of the instant priorities upon his arrival.

In 1995, the town had 6,000 people, and the interchange was a four-way stop. He said people were concerned and the first objective was to get lights installed.

"Then over the years, there had been some widening plans on the books that we were looking at. We were trying to ramp up and get more involvement by the province, and certain decisions were made and certain decisions were reached, and then they'd get pushed to the back burner. Then another council would come in.

"So it takes a lot of time and momentum to bring a project like this to life and I'm thrilled to see it's finally going to be there."

He believes the council of the day deserves to take the bow for making the final climb to the summit for any major infrastructure project.