Traffic study workshop gathers community feedback
Residents sound off about traffic concerns, worries about lack of information
Saturday, Feb 01, 2014 06:00 am
The updated traffic report is available online at www.stalbert.ca/new_schools
Emotions were running high at the Erin Ridge traffic study public workshop held Thursday night.
More than 70 residents, city staff, other interested parties and councillors crowded into a room at King of Kings Lutheran Church to take a second crack at public input into the draft study, which attempts to analyze traffic around the proposed francophone regional high school site in Erin Ridge.
Much of the time was spent with residents able to gather at tables to discuss particular topics and write out feedback. There were tables for traffic volumes and short-cutting, hospital parking, traffic issues around the school site and the school site/location, along with pages for written feedback.
But when the crowd gathered together at the end, frustration with a lack of information and with council was clear.
“I don’t know how many sites were actually looked at,” said Daryl Wright, noting they have never gotten a chance to ask the superintendents that form the majority of the school site allocation committee what sites were considered. He said they’re asking council – several members of which were present at the workshop – to look at different site options and if they’re feasible.
Wright encouraged council to not allow the provincial government to threaten to pull funding for the school if there’s a delay in the site, pointing to a successful site change for a francophone school in Red Deer in 2012 that was featured in an article circulated at the meeting.
A few people, including Erin Ridge Residents’ Action Committee member Murray Lambert, accused council of allowing blinders to be put on them with regards to site options. “There are other options,” Lambert said.
Debbie Stephens said while her heart goes out to the francophone students attending high school in the basement of a nursing home, she’s concerned the park site isn’t big enough to accommodate future growth.
“Those francophone children deserve a proper site,” Stephens said. Like others who labelled traffic safety as a concern, she wants to avoid a repeat of the tragic pedestrian fatalities from 2013.
“I don’t want to see a child killed,” Stephens said.
Meanwhile James Burrows spoke passionately as a francophone parent about the need for the school and addressed concerns the school site would grow.
“We as a school board, we don’t have the catchment numbers like St. Albert Catholic would or St. Albert (Public) would,” Burrows said.
“We as parents of our children, we respect your neighbourhood. We understand your concerns … but please, please, please, take the time to put yourselves in our shoes,” Burrows said, sounding on the brink of tears when telling the crowd about promising your child one day they’d have a real school.
Beth Sanders, the moderator for the evening, told residents she would be writing a report including all the feedback that residents jotted down for council.
“My commitment to you is to collect what you say and I’m going to relay it in,” she said. “It has to be in writing otherwise I’m not going to catch it.”
A tour of the tables showed the large pads of paper being filled with pleas to look at other options and concerns over traffic safety.
“I know there are people in this room that are feeling they have not been heard,” Sanders said. “I also know there is confusing and conflicting information.”
At the beginning of the meeting the absence of the city manager and mayor were noted by the public.
“I really am disappointed Patrick Draper didn’t show up,” Wright said, noting that in the Jan. 24 letter sent to residents Draper said he looked forward to talking to them at the meeting.
The workshop was the second presentation on the traffic study, which was revised after the December meeting where many of the same residents offered feedback.
Mark Huberman from Bunt & Associates pointed out some of the changes from the previous draft version.
The new draft looked at new scenarios for student busing, including anticipating what happens if more students drive to school rather than take the school bus than the francophone school district has suggested is likely.
Huberman said new traffic counts are coming but, due to some windy weather the days they tried to do the work in January, they aren’t complete yet, but will be by the Feb. 18 council date.
Some mitigation strategies were added to the report as well.