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Benchlands Trail & Bow Valley Trail Intersection

2019-2021 I Canmore, AB

As part of its Transportation Initiatives Projects 2020, the Town of Canmore sought to transform the Benchlands Trail and Bow Valley Trail intersection with multi-modal safety improvements to better protect all road users. This included fully separated facilities for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists to integrate with Canmore’s existing Complete Streets system and enhance active transportation in the area.

The issue? This intersection is located in a highly constrained area: one within a narrow right-of-way and close to the CP Rail line. McElhanney had a complex problem to solve, and not a lot of space to solve it.

By adapting Dutch intersection design and traffic signal phasing principles to North American guidelines and standards, our team completed the preliminary design, detailed design, and construction administration of this protected intersection with near-side signals—the first of its kind in North America! Our team’s innovative design addressed safety issues typical of traditional signalized intersections while also enabling large volumes of vehicle traffic, pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users to coexist. Our intersection design also eliminated vehicle turning movements across active crosswalks, further enhancing pedestrian safety.

Check out drone footage of the intersection in action:

McElhanney designed separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists, each with their own crosswalks, signals, and designated areas. The theme of grey concrete for pedestrians and red concrete for cyclists is consistent with other Complete Streets upgrades in the community.

Sustainability was also a key concern. Our team implemented Low Impact Design infiltration-based storm systems designed to treat stormwater and eliminate discharge to surface water bodies. Data also shows that non-motorized usage is also up through the intersection. This will help the Town reach its mode share target of 35% of all trips to be by non-motorized modes by 2030.

One of the intersection’s most unique features is its near-sided traffic signal placement and signal phasing. McElhanney designed the phasing to eliminate all vehicle conflict points within the intersection, reducing the likelihood of accidents. With multiple cameras and sensors continuously interacting with the traffic controller, the system uses several phasing modes to determine which user locations have the highest demand to assign more “green light” time. If demand is low, green times are reduced. If no users are present at a specific location, green lights will be skipped until more users arrive at the intersection.

The result? An intersection that safely transports over 30,000 vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians and cyclists, and 1,200 transit users on a peak travel day. The success of this project can be measured in the number of accidents at the intersection in 2022—zero!

Overall, this project created an efficient intersection that prioritizes the safety and mobility of all road users, making it a valuable addition to the Town’s transportation network.

This project earned a 2023 Minister’s Award for Transportation Innovation from the Government of Alberta.

Town of Canmore cycling infrastructure
Town of Canmore cycling infrastructure
Town of Canmore cycling