Bragg Creek folks 'held prisoner' by traffic jams while waiting years for roundabouts

Michael Shea is fed up with traffic jams of up to an hour long in his small community — which are putting the brakes on Bragg Creek's revitalization and discouraging residents from leaving home.

2 intersections in tiny hamlet west of Calgary often delay cars more than an hour

Traffic piles up during rush hour and on busy weekends heading in and out of Bragg Creek, Alta. (Brooks Decillia/CBC)

Michael Shea is fed up with the endless traffic jams in his small community of Bragg Creek, Alta.

Two key intersections — governed only by stop signs — lead to wait times sometimes longer than an hour for through traffic on the Cowboy Trail (Highway 22).

The tiny hamlet, southwest of Calgary, connects the the city to popular trails in the area and nearby Kananaskis Country.

For almost six years, the two intersections about 100 metres apart have been earmarked by the province for roundabouts, yet no timeline for construction has been set.

The wait for a fix, Shea says, is hurting the community and its 600 residents.

"We're trying to revitalize the community, and when people sit in a lineup for an hour just to get through the intersection, the last thing they want to do is come into Bragg Creek and start spending money as tourists," he told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday.

"The residents of West Bragg Creek here and south of Bragg Creek tend to stay home on weekends.… They're basically being held prisoner in their own neighbourhood."

The intersection of Highway 22 at Highway 758 and Burnside Drive in Bragg Creek is slated to be redone with an oblong roundabout. (Google Maps)

Shea and others run the Bragg Creek Revitalization Committee, which is leading a letter writing campaign and launched a petition for the intersection redevelopment last summer.

The two intersections causing problems include the four-way stop of Highway 22  at Highway 758 and Burnside Drive, and then the three-way intersection of two arms of Balsam Avenue meeting Highway 22.

Two intersections, with only stop signs to direct traffic leading into Bragg Creek, are often backed up. (Rachel Ward/Google Maps)

The solution of two roundabouts, recommended in a 2012 provincial engineering study, won't be ready any time soon.

"This has been going on for a lot of years," Shea says.

Not a priority yet

Alberta Transportation declined an interview Thursday. In a statement, the department said the roundabout for Highway 22 at Highway 758 and Burnside Drive is not yet on the province's construction plan, nor is it on its unfunded capital projects list.

It might make these key lists, the department said, but that depends on "provincial priorities and funding ability" and there are "no immediate plans in place."

"The reality is the list of provincial needs far outstrip the funding available and we must consider the entire transportation network," the statement read.

"Alberta Transportation will continue to monitor this intersection for safety and operation, and consider the roundabout relative to other provincial projects."

Traffic is stalled for up to an hour through two intersections leading into Bragg Creek. (Brooks Decillia/CBC)

With weather turning hot and sunny, the area is overloaded again — and residents and outdoor enthusiasts alike are complaining.

Many drivers become frustrated after waiting for so long and impatiently rush through the intersection sometimes two or three at a time, Shea says.

 "And like I say, people from Calgary and outlying area don't really want to come through Bragg Creek on long weekends and high traffic times," he said. "Because they know what they're going to be faced with."

He also worries the fix will end up costing more than the $2 million estimated six years ago.

The province says funding for new projects won't be done until the 2019 budget cycle, which is not guaranteed to include this project.

  • Hear more from Michael Shea about the traffic backlog in his community:

With files from Josie Lukey and the Calgary Eyeopener.