Candidates offer thoughts on traffic problems in St. Albert
St. Albert Trail, Ray Gibbon Drive, photo radar highlighted by aspiring council members
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 19, 2013 06:00 am
To conclude our weekly series with St. Albert city council hopefuls, the Gazette asked candidates how they would address the traffic problems experienced by many St. Albert residents.
Biermanski would like to get the municipal planning commission back in action, noting there’s “a lot of funnel zones” in St. Albert that appear to be the result of poor planning.
“Planning things a little bit better would help a lot of areas,” Biermanski said, adding that there seems to be quite a few trouble spots.
“I believe many of them could be corrected,” she said.
She’d like the city to do its research and straighten out the issues.
“Generally as a city of 60,000 our traffic is flowing pretty well,” Crouse said.
He said improvements have occurred since the accesses and egresses onto the Anthony Henday have been upgraded and that Ray Gibbon Drive has been another improvement.
“Where we’re not in good shape is St. Albert Trail north … it is an area that is not, quite frankly, hasn’t had any long-term planning put there, it’s just been kind of pay as you move along,” he said.
He noted other traffic issues in the Erin Ridge area and school zones, along with other local traffic problems, have been highlighted.
“The long-term big picture is ultimately we need more public transit in the decades ahead,” Crouse said.
“First thing to do is start talking to the provincial government about extending Ray Gibbon north of Villeneuve and connect it with the trail,” Russell said.
He said St. Albert is one of the only cities of its size with a major highway going down the middle of it.
“Everybody else has bypasses,” Russell said. He recently watched traffic on St. Albert Trail and said he “cannot believe the number of huge, double-trailer gravel trucks” on the road.
“I fought for a different alignment on Ray Gibbon Drive,” he said of his past council experience.
Burke said she understands the city does get complaints from residents and that information should be used to identify trouble spots.
“I would probably want to talk to the engineering department,” Burke said.
With the completion of stage three of Ray Gibbon Drive, which was funded in part by the province, she’d want to see what other initiatives or collaborations are going on with regards to roadways.
Council should look at the park-and-ride situation and see how St. Albert Transit could help fill some commuter needs, she said.
“Traffic is about moving people and it’s about moving them safely,” Heron said, adding that’s a balance that needs to be maintained.
She’s heard a lot about the need to synchronize traffic lights, but said she’s also heard arguments from firefighters against such a move.
Heron thinks of St. Albert Trail as a commercial corridor and wants people to slow down and shop. She said there is a planned study on trail corridor safety. She’d like to see more left-hand turn lights that allow turning vehicles to go first, then go to red for them and allow the straight-through traffic to go.
In newer areas of St. Albert, she’d like to consider roundabouts.
“I like roundabouts. They slow traffic down yet they don’t stop it,” she said.
“What we can do with regard to land use to make sure that school zones are more safe is something I’d be really interested in looking at,” MacKay said. “I’m not sure we can do anything about that but we should be looking into it.”
He said little changes, like perhaps providing cutouts near schools for vehicles to pull into, could be options.
Others will talk about photo radar and traffic flows, but for him school zone safety is top of mind at the moment.
When he’s out door-knocking, people are starting to bring forward traffic concerns, Parker said. They’ve noticed the flow of traffic seems to be increasing and is causing residents safety concerns, he said.
“I think we’re going to have to recognize that this is becoming a greater concern with residents so we have to address that and I think we’ve got to take a look at, from what I’m hearing, how we do controls at intersections,” Parker said.
He said there should be a consistent traffic light policy and consistency in speed limits, instead of having them vary from neighourhood to neighbourhood.
He’d like to see synchronized lights on main roads, look at how traffic moves through intersections, especially in regards to left-hand turns, and start moving forward with the Ray Gibbon Drive extension from Villeneuve Road to Highway 2.
“My answer is the twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive will have a significant impact on alleviating St. Albert Trail congestion,” Bradley said.
He sees the congestion on the trail as the major problem in St. Albert.
He said the city is working on using technology that would install sensors around St. Albert, and suggested those could be used to collect data for traffic management purposes.
“That’s coming down the road. That will help with traffic flow,” Bradley said.
Jones thinks there is a “big problem” with St. Albert Trail, and suggested the widening of Anthony Henday and the realignment of Villeneuve Road would be of help.
“Once that has been achieved, a lot of the heavy traffic on St. Albert Trail will be diverted in that direction,” he said. What the new council can do is try and bring forward those plans, he said, though he noted it might be difficult.
Speed is a problem in several areas, Jones said. He’d also like to see a study on the possibility of synchronizing lights on the St. Albert Trail.
“How possible that is, I’m not sure,” he said, but it should at least be looked at.
“I suspect what’s come to the forefront here is the issue around Eldorado,” Brodhead said. “I’m waiting to see what the traffic-calming recommendations are that come out of the report.”
He said the impact of Everitt Drive north and how much it will take off Eldorado needs to be understood as well.
He noted Hogan Road as another hotspot and predicted the third phase of Ray Gibbon Drive opening will alleviate some of the pressure. But that opening will put more pressure on the intersection of Villeneuve Road and St. Albert Trail, he said, and that should be examined. There may be mounting pressure to construct Fowler Way in the coming years, he said.
Brodhead said he’s heard more issues on the north side of the city than the south.
Cassidy would like to work toward implementing a full traffic review to do with safety and traffic flow in St. Albert.
“Commuters are suggesting that traffic flow is a problem,” Cassidy said.
There’s concerns with light sequences and speed limits, Cassidy said. People inside neighbouring communities are concerned about signage within their neighbourhood and would like to see more enforcement on their local roads, he said.
“I would like to include photo radar in there, in the review,” Cassidy said. “That would be up for debate.”
He suggested a different form of radar enforcement might be more effective as it seems photo radar is more of a cash grab than enforcement, he said.
“The first thing is that the timing of the signal lights and just the traffic configuration is with several intersections makes it more attractive for many residents to take shortcuts through residential neighbourhoods,” Hughes said.
She said if arterial roads are designed to be faster and more attractive than shortcuts, drivers will start using those instead.
In areas where they aren’t affected by arterial roads or shortcuts, she’d like to talk to residents about what traffic problems they see. Those same residents should be asked what they’d like as solutions, she said, as often she’s heard concerns and solutions from the same residents.
In the near future, Goldsmith wants to see the twinning of Winston Churchill Avenue, Campbell Road and other main arteries that have been designed for twinning.
He said the sooner Ray Gibbon Drive gets to where it’s supposed to go, the better.
“I might even consider a toll on trucks coming through the city and see how that works,” Goldsmith said.
He thinks traffic lights should be looked at again, synchronized and the style of the lights’ operations made consistent so they count down in the same manner.
“It’s very inconsistent and it doesn’t allow the traffic to flow properly,” Goldsmith said.
Harley thinks there are too many traffic lights in St. Albert.
“There’s way too many traffic lights and if there’s anything needed, we should be looking at four way stops,” he said.
Lights should be triggered by motion, he said, and synchronized.
Harley would also like to review the speed limits, saying the limits aren’t fast enough on roads like Poirier Avenue where there aren’t residential areas opening onto the street, he said.
“St. Albert Trail should be higher,” he said.
He’d also like to see more advance left-hand turn lights that turn red and then allow straight-through traffic to proceed, so intersections aren’t plugged up with turning vehicles.
The area around the hospital is a particular problem traffic area, Durham said, noting a traffic survey is now occurring.
“We have problems in school zones,” Durham said. The cost has already been too much, he said.
“I think we have to do more than put radar vans in school zones,” he said.
“We’ve neglected a lot of things,” Durham said of traffic issues in St. Albert.
One area of neglect is “safety surrounding traffic. I think we’ve neglected that and we need to get on it,” Durham said.
He said current council has started on the issue and the new council will have to continue that work.
After taxes, traffic concerns have been what Osborne’s been hearing about the most when door-knocking, he said.
“We do need a city-wide traffic safety review that includes feedback from residents,” Osborne said.
Residents know the trouble spots and that information should be tapped and then addressed, he said.
“I’d certainly be open to looking at a reduction of the speed limit in residential areas. I’ve seen way too many close calls in the past few years,” Osborne said.
If photo radar use continues, Osborne said, he’d like to see it used in areas where there is a “legitimate safety concern” rather than where radar “can generate the most revenue,” he said.
There are two points about traffic problems for Prefontaine: pedestrian safety and traffic congestion.
“In terms of congestion … we need to get more effective flow of traffic with the proper use of collectors,” Prefontaine said.
There are too many traffic lights and technology should be used to smooth the flow, he said. The number of lights cause drivers to be frustrated and drive aggressively or look for short cuts, he said.
“We also need to look at other areas of traffic,” he said, and that includes looking at pedestrian safety.
He said non-traffic flow should be looked at throughout the city, especially at locations like schools, parks, recreational facilities and the Perron District.
“I think we’ve got a serious problem with traffic issues in this community,” Climenhaga said, noting that’s a problem in many communities.
“I really don’t have any complaints on the major routes,” Climenhaga said, but said he thinks photo radar could be used more effectively.
“I think if it’s used properly it can really slow streets down and make the roads a lot safer. I’m not always persuaded it’s used properly,” Climenhaga said, saying if it’s used in the same spots all the time, he feels it might be there for revenue generation.
“Photo radar speed traps should be used where speeding’s a problem,” he said, adding it should be used as a public safety tool, not a revenue generation tool.
He thinks there are things around the Erin Ridge school site that can be done, and suggested the city’s traffic department could think outside the box.
Climenhaga also suggested looking at lowering speed limits around schools to 40 kilometres per hour.