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Chamber blasts Cardiff lights

Plan raises fear of congestion and pollution

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014 06:00 am

More Images - Click to Enlarge
  • RED LIGHT – A proposed plan to install traffic lights at the corner of Cardiff Road and Highway 2 is generating criticism from residents and business owners.
    RED LIGHT – A proposed plan to install traffic lights at the corner of Cardiff Road and Highway 2 is generating criticism from residents and business owners.
    FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette
  • THE PLAN – This photo and diagram shows the planned layout of traffic signals at Cardiff Corner.
    THE PLAN – This photo and diagram shows the planned layout of traffic signals at Cardiff Corner.

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The head of Morinville’s Chamber of Commerce worries that the proposed traffic signals at Cardiff Corner will be a roadblock for local businesses.

About 30 people came to the Morinville Community Cultural Centre Thursday for an open house on the upcoming addition of traffic signals to the intersection of Cardiff Road and Hwy. 2 south of Morinville.

This intersection, commonly known as Cardiff Corner, is a frequent site for traffic collisions.

The problem is the large volume of cars turning left off Cardiff Rd. onto the highway, said Connor Smith, a planner with Al-Terra Engineering (the company Alberta Transportation hired to signalize the intersection). Cars making the turn have to dodge three lanes of cars going 100 kilometres an hour – some of which they can’t see due to the position of one of the highway’s turning lanes.

The province originally planned to build a roughly $50 million interchange here as a solution, but that plan got put on ice due to budgetary concerns, Smith said. The province has proposed a $1 million set of signal lights as a temporary fix.

Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Maureen Kubinec said the interchange is still at the top of her priority list, and that she hopes to see it built within five years. She pushed for these lights as an interim solution.

“If we’re not going to do that (interchange) for the next few years, we have to do something about the safety.”

The province plans to install traffic lights on all four sides of this intersection later this spring, said Wes Kennedy, project engineer with Al-Terra. Crews can rotate these lights to move them out of the way of tall loads.

These signals will be linked to cameras that will cycle the lights whenever they detect a car stopped at the intersection, Kennedy said – you should get a green turn arrow within 90 seconds of stopping in the turning lane. Cars will not be allowed to turn left unless they have a green arrow.

These signals will create safe gaps in traffic drivers can use to turn left, Smith said.

“When you have your green light, you’re safe.”

Crews will install more streetlights around this intersection as well as flashing yellow lights on Hwy. 2 that will warn drivers that the upcoming traffic signal is about to turn red, Kennedy said. The speed limit in the region will drop to 80 kilometres an hour as well.

Crews do not plan to move or expand any of the intersection’s turn lanes, Smith said. They will, however, change Cardiff Rd. to allow drivers to turn left using either of its two lanes.

Traffic models suggest that there should be no more than six to 10 cars stacked up at these lights at a time, Smith said.

“It’s not going to be one-kilometre long queues,” he said. “It’s going to be quite responsive.”

Smith said the lights should be enough to handle traffic at the intersection for about 10 years, at which point they will have to be replaced by an interchange.

Residents skeptical

Cardiff resident Mike Larocque said he expects to see traffic jams and more air pollution if these lights go in at Cardiff Corner.

“Every time you slow down a large vehicle and have to stop them, you’re wasting a bunch of fuel,” he noted. “It’s going to be less environmental.”

While he personally could get his big truck through the intersection without trouble, Larocque said he regularly sees people pull dangerous moves to get through it.

Still, he argued that signals are a Band-Aid solution for people who can’t do left-hand turns safely – a solution that ignores a much easier one.

“All they’ve got to do is make a better right-hand turn lane into Morinville.”

Much of this intersection’s risk comes from cars in that lane blocking sight-lines for cars turning left onto the highway, he argued. Move or widen that turn lane, and you’ve reduced the risk.

But that only fixes one out of the intersection’s four corners and (due to the road work involved) would cost as much as signalization, Smith said.

“Signalization creates safe movements for each direction of traffic, regardless of sight-lines.”

Simon Boersma, president of the Morinville & District Chamber of Commerce, blasted Alberta Transportation for not discussing its plans for the intersection with local businesses.

“If businesses start moving out because we have a set of lights there, that’s a big concern for me.”

Local businesses regularly ship massive loads through this intersection that are often 12 metres high and 27 long, Boersma said. Those loads will run into the signal posts if they go in at their proposed locations even if they’re rotatable. This could be avoided if the posts were put in the median, but that’s not the provincial standard.

“It’s $700 to turn a traffic light,” Boersma continued, not counting the difficulties inherent in working with the province to rotate those lights.

That added cost could push some shippers out of Morinville, he warned.

“If businesses are leaving because they can’t get out of town with their high loads, that also means there are going to be families leaving,” Boersma said.

“Every one of those businesses employs 35 to 40 guys. That’s 40 to 50 families.”

The signals should be in place by the end of September, Smith said.


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