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Fatality leads to increased calls for Canmore pedestrian bridge over highway

The death of a 20-year-old woman on Highway 1 in Canmore has renewed calls for an overpass in the area.

CANMORE, ALBERTA – A call for levels of government to look at a pedestrian bridge to connect the Palliser lands with Canmore via a pedestrian bridge over the Trans-Canada Highway has gained significant attention.

The latest call comes after a 20-year-old woman was killed early Sunday morning when she was struck and killed on the Trans-Canada Highway near the Canmore Visitor Information Centre.

“I think it’s definitely on all levels of government because I think the issue’s been decided we need the bridge there,” said Canmore resident Jessie Loucks, who has been pushing for a pedestrian bridge or underpass across the highway since 2018. “It’s needed more than ever. This incident is directly indicative of why we need it and how soon we need it.

“We know the Town is planning to expand and every level of government has planned for that expansion, all the way from affordable housing to the train coming through. We know we’re planning to expand and yet we continue to leave this portion of town not serviced. I don’t think there needs to be a discussion. I think there needs to be action. I think we need to break ground as soon as possible. We don’t need a death to happen before we do something.”

The RMCP said Monday afternoon they’re continuing to investigate the hit-and-run and will release more information when they’re able.

Anyone with information can contact the Canmore RCMP detachment at 403-678-5516. If they wish to remain anonymous, they can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, online at or using the P3 Tips app on the Google Play store or Apple store.

Loucks first brought forward the issue in 2018 when she was living in the Palliser area.

She remembered watching people from her patio cross back and forth on the highway and then used it herself to get to work for a job at the time at Save-on-Foods.

“Why would I walk half-an-hour when I could be there in 10 minutes?” she said.

After launching an online petition, Loucks discussed the issue during a 2018 public hearing when Canmore was part of the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games bid.

When the Olympic and Paralympic bid was defeated in a plebiscite in Calgary, the Town had $250,000 budgeted for the design of a pedestrian crossing along Palliser for 2024.

Former Mayor John Borrowman brought forward a motion to have the design of the capital project take place in 2020 due to existing development, but also future development with much of the land owned by Canmore Community Housing.

However, the plans were pushed back due to COVID-19 and not kickstarted again until the 2022 budget talks when council voted to use money from the paid parking program to hire a planner for the Palliser area structure plan that would see a high level plan created for future development in the area.

The design work for the pedestrian bridge is outlined for 2026 in the 2022-26 budget and business plan for $450,000 in 2026.

Mayor Sean Krausert didn’t comment when asked about a potential need for the pedestrian bridge in the Palliser area, but expressed sympathy on behalf of the Town for the death of the 20-year-old woman.

“Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the woman who died early Sunday morning. Unfortunately, we will not be able to comment any further until we find out the circumstances surrounding this tragic event,” he said.

A pedestrian bridge was part of the plan for the first residential development on Palliser in 2006, but the council at the time spent money set aside to develop an underpass at Cougar Creek. The decision was made after several people had been killed crossing the highway in that area and it was deemed necessary to address more connectivity and public safety.

The federal government contributed $3 million through the Community Adjustment Fund and the Town also helped with funding of more than $1 million.

The underpass is now a frequently used 60-metre stretch underneath the Trans-Canada Highway that connects the Cougar Creek area to Bow Valley Trail.

The Town has also undergone work to improve connectivity in the community, such as in recent years by accommodating cyclists, pedestrians and public transit on the Benchlands overpass. It led to a lane on each side being eliminated for vehicles and set aside for other transit modes.

The Town’s Integrated Transportation Plan, which was passed in 2018, also prioritizes improving active modes of transit. An underpass was also mentioned in the Town's open space and trails plan that was approved in 2015 and last amended in 2021.

In the 2022 budget, Town council approved increasing Roam transit service in the community by expanding the frequency and hours during the week and Sundays.

Loucks said she has talked with current council members and understands them to be supportive, but that it’s a steep price tag.          

“No one wants to sign off on a project that costs a lot, especially when they think it’s only helping a small number of people,” she said. “But those people serve everyone else, so it’s a really vital part of the community that they’re neglecting. … It’s not just the people in those buildings that use that crossing.”

Loucks said she understands the cost of the project will be high, but that it’s a necessity for residents.

“Why do rules have to be written in blood. I don’t understand. It’s the same thing over and over again. When are we going to take preemptive action rather than reactive action? It’s expensive, but how much is a human life worth?”

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