Letter: Traffic delays… and opportunity

Dear Editor,
Recently I decided on an impromptu visit to my mom at the Jailhouse B&B in Valemount. I traveled via Hwy 16 from Edmonton, there was some construction along the way but no severe delays. On the morning of Friday the 13th, I decided to go to Calgary via the parkway. I left Valemount around 11am and left town thinking it was a reasonable time to be able to get to Jasper for lunch before heading south. The drive was smooth until just inside the west park gate. At 1:27pm (AB time) I came to a complete stop at the back of a 2km line of cars which was stopped for the scaling work which seems to be an eternal project. For the next full hour, the traffic never budged other than the lines getting longer. Once the road was opened it was another 20 minutes of alternating traffic before getting past the obstruction. On the other side, I estimate there was up to 10km of traffic stopped.
During the 1.5 hour delay I couldn’t help but think how poorly managed this is. The unannounced delay makes our country look ridiculous to tourists and risks messing up their planned activities; it undoubtedly affects truckers who are losing money by the minute and it inconveniences commuter traffic.
I have complained to Parks Canada and will complain to Jasper NP directly as well. The reason I am writing to you now is that while stewing on the side on the highway, hungry and thirsty, it dawned on me what a massive missed opportunity these delays are to the businesses of Valemount. 10km of traffic is approximately 500 cars (20m per car) If even 1/4 of these cars were alerted to the necessary closure they would fill every restaurant for lunch in the Robson Valley.
A few simple electronic sign boards on the highway to alert road conditions ahead could provide significant revenue to local businesses for planned and unplanned closures. Planned and communicated road closures give others the opportunity to plan around the closure.
I am not suggesting that it is up to the individual businesses to know the road conditions but the town leadership needs do more to disseminate information. If there was no information available or plans made then it is time Valemount demands more from the entities which directly affect the community.

Byron Birkbeck
Edmonton, AB

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