511 road service needs improvement

By Sharon McLeay Times Contributor

Imagine a need to travel, but you find out the RCMP has closed the highway. Like many people, you divert to the back roads to get through, only to find worse conditions that set the stage for a serious scenario for a dangerous safety situation.
This is what happened to many people travelling Highway 1 during the Oct. 2 storm. The correct information was lost between the provincial transportation minister’s direction to close the highway and the 511 website which was not updated.
“People were phoning us and we were telling them to stay off the roads,” said Alan Parkin, Wheatland County chief administrative officer.
Parkin said the RCMP was out monitoring the roads and helping travellers. He added that he did not know why the secondary roads were also not included in the closure, as it made sense if the main highways were incapacitated, the secondary roads would not be fit for travel.
It is estimated between 80 to 150 people were sheltered across Wheatland County centres during the storm, but reports of travellers spending the night in their cars until help arrived also emerged.
Parkin added that two of the highway cameras monitoring Highway 1 were incapacitated by the storm. He said additional cameras would definitely have helped monitoring from Chestermere to Strathmore and connecting off roads.
Wheatland County councillors said the Gleichen hilltop location on Highway 1 would be a good place for an additional camera, and possibly on Highways 21, 24, 56 and Glenmore Trail. Councillors asked that a letter be sent to the provincial transportation minister requesting a review of why the 511 services showed the roadways open for travel, correcting the system so that it does not happen again in the future, and possibly adding more monitoring cameras on significant travel corridors.