Alberta Transportation and the Owner’s Engineering Consultant Team recently began the Alternate Delivery of Highway (Commercial) Safety Rest Areas (SRA) project. The intent of this project is to develop commercial SRA (CSRA) at no (or minimal) cost to government by having sites operated through an agreement with private developer(s) for a specified time period. Fourteen initial sites on government owned land have been shortlisted with the study team working to determine the feasibility of developing these sites, which are located on National Highway System corridors including Highway 1 (Trans-Canada), Highway 2 (Queen Elizabeth II), Highway 16 (Yellowhead) and Highway 63 (Fort McMurray/Athabasca Oil Sands access). The project requires the team to establish standards for provision of commercial services, conduct a jurisdictional scan of other agencies, develop functional plans and a business case for those sites pursued under this project, and administer the project through to construction.
The project is currently in the functional planning phase of the work, which focuses on understanding the physical and economic strength of each site to support commercial development interests. The viability of the project is largely contingent on having sufficient traffic volumes that will bring in adequate revenue streams for potential development partners throughout the concession period. As such, it is important to establish policies and standards that will provide safe, convenient, comfortable and efficient rest areas to entice road users to utilize these facilities. Site enhancement opportunities (i.e., use of branding techniques to highlight surrounding regional and/or topographic features; provision of additional recreational features; amalgamation with tourism) will be sought for each site to customize these to local, regional and national travel demand needs. Sustainability measures are also being considered that meet green initiatives and support future travel requirements such as electric car charging and truck electrification.
This presentation will address many of the initial considerations made during this first work phase regarding the economic/market factors that influence the viability of introducing commercial development to highway rest areas, site design and layout factors (building and site size, commercial amenities, user amenities, parking allowances, and fueling opportunities), and transportation design factors (roadside or median placement, traffic circulation, parking layout and access management). It will also address other items of interest to practitioners including sustainability, branding, legislation, emerging design and policy issues, and investment demands.