The contract for developing a regional transportation strategy through central Alberta has been awarded to the Red Deer firm of Stantec Consulting Ltd., the Central Alberta Economic Partnership Ltd. (CAEP) announced recently.
“It’s a project that’s been taken on by CEAP to evaluate and review how transportation needs could be met between all communities,” said Rimbey Mayor Dale Barr, who also chairs CAEP. “This is a new initiative that is looking to link workers, the elderly and people with less means of transportation for easy access to other communities.”
Barr said over the past number of years CAEP has been involved in a number of initiatives that were affected by a lack of adequate transportation in this region of the province and to attract new businesses to the area, transportation options are a must.
“This is going to be an interesting project in that it hasn’t been taken on by any economic development agency that we know of, so it’ll be a CAEP first,” Barr said. “The goal of course, is first to try and analyze strengths and weaknesses and how we can connect them and still stay economically viable.”
At the heart of the matter is the development of a sustainable and balanced strategy intended to provide communities and businesses in central Alberta with the opportunity of working together for the good of all.
“Certainly there will be a cost to municipalities so it’s something that they’ll all have the opportunity to evaluate and look at. Public transportation or transit is not free by any means,” Barr said. “There’s a cost that runs with that, but we’ve challenged the engineering firm to try and come up with implementable programs for all-sized communities.”
While the release of the final plan could be more than two years away, Barr said whatever is proposed will be required to fit within current infrastructure.
“We’re not creating new pathways to connect communities or building a super highway. It’ll be limited to vehicle transport of some sort,” he said. “We’ll start at the basic car-pooling idea and how to promote that and tie it into the community. Currently, there’s an ability to register your name and our feeling is that most people don’t know it’s out there.”
Barr said the new initiative would range from car-pooling right up to and including a full charter service with hourly trips back and forth between communities.
“It’s a complex challenge, and a large region to consider what may work well for transportation to and from various points depending on changing economic development needs,” added Dean Cooper of Stantec. “We’ll be working with CAEP members and leaders to develop a toolkit of approaches that can be used to address transportation needs that change over time, and are different from place to place within the area encompassed by the CAEP.”