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St. Albert: the red light district

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 01:45 pm

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Two weeks ago, I had a drive that, to me, sums up what itís like to commute around St. Albert. I simply took Sir Winston Churchill Avenue from one end to the other. Itís one of the cityís busiest roads, a nearly 12-kilometre stretch that extends from Leclair Way to Poundmaker Road. It has 14 sets of traffic lights, by my reckoning.

What led me to count the number of lights? Well, I had to stop at every one of them.

Itís not an uncommon experience, one that Iím sure many, many other people have had for themselves. Anyone who tries to go down Hebert Road, for example, must certainly expect to hit the brakes for any of the six possible lights from St. Albert Trail to Boudreau Road. Three of those are particularly troublesome, as they appear at Sunset Boulevard, the Safeway turn and Arlington Drive. The total distance between those three is only about 250 metres.

Itís the most auspicious and egregious example of a very particular problem. There should be an auto repair shop right there to help out with all of the brakes that get their toughest workouts on site.

Thatís even worse than the three sets of lights right in front of St. Albert Place. At least these are all timed to go off in unison. Hebertís lights are seemingly run by a random lottery of electrons.

This is why I call St. Albert the red light district. Iíve even sat at some lights for several minutes before a green comes my way. Does stopping more give people more reason to shop in the city, I ponder, or does it simply make the air more foul?

Do they really make intersections safer? The city seems to have an enthusiasm for traffic lights over and above what is healthy for a municipality or its people.

Iíve also noticed several traffic lights with new black plastic over them. Any other kind of wrapping would make me think of a special gift but Iíd prefer not to know what the city has in store. My imagination leads me to wild thoughts of how many more red lights can appear in the middle of intersections.

Why does St. Albert love to put up new lights at otherwise happy street crossings where usually stop signs would suffice? I think that a lot of it has to do with accidents or complaints. Whenever a problem arises, the issue gets solved with a new set of lights.

This is not always the case, of course. There were hardly any problems at the stop sign at Cunningham Road and Sir Winston before lights went up. I expect that more lights will arise half a block away where Sunset Boulevard meets the epicentre of the entrances to Fountain Park Recreation Centre and Paul Kane High School. Anyone who has tried to pass through when swim lessons or afternoon classes have let out must surely agree.

Officials are likely having a healthy debate about the Summit Centre crosswalk to the Sturgeon Community Hospital or the popular yet still unmarked corner of Churchill and Woodlands Road, both scenes of fatal traffic collisions last year. Meanwhile, new no-turn signs have been installed at Riel Drive to warn drivers of trains crossing the road.

Scott Hayes knows the speed limits for every road in St. Albert.


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