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Board wants ring road off the books

Is "20th century" thinking, says Edmonton mayor

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jul 12, 2014 06:00 am

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Local mayors say they want the province to make sure that a proposed outer ring road gets rubbed off the map for good – even though said road is decades away.

Capital Region Board members moved unanimously to ask the province to speak with them about its future transportation plans for the capital region – specifically, how those plans lined up with the CRB’s growth plan.

The request came out of the board’s land use and planning committee, which had concerns about the province’s plans for a second regional ring road around Edmonton.

The board does not support such a road and the province has stopped working on it at the board’s request, said CRB chair and St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse.

“What the province is saying is they’ll only put it on their books if we want it, and at this point we haven’t given them that okay.”

Still, land use committee chair and Sturgeon County Mayor Tom Flynn said board members were concerned that the province was still thinking about the project.

“We’re not convinced they’ve got it totally off the discussion (table),” Flynn said.

The committee was also concerned that other local projects were being held up by the province until work on this ring road resumed, a report to the CRB said.

Put (another) ring on it?

The proposed outer ring road would be about eight kilometres outside the Anthony Henday, running north of St. Albert and between Fort Saskatchewan and Edmonton. The province had planned to build it in 30 years or so.

Parkland County Mayor Rod Shaigec supported the road, noting that the capital region would be having major traffic jams today had it not started planning the Henday in the 1970s.

“It’s just sound planning,” he said.

“If we don’t implement and have another ring road, there’s going to be further traffic congestion.”

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson called the ring road “wasteful,” noting that some had pegged its cost at about $11 billion and that the region already has roads like Manning Drive that form a second ring around Edmonton and need investment.

“Let’s upgrade the highways we have rather than lose a whole bunch of land and spend a tonne of money (on this),” he said.

Iveson said the ring road was 20th century thinking, whereas the board’s growth plan was based on 21st century concepts like compact, transit-led development.

“We need to sit down with the province and we need to get crystal clear that this isn’t a priority for the region, and it doesn’t align with our growth plans.”

An outer ring road on the books would lock up land and encourage leapfrog development like the Henday did, Flynn said. Still, he personally thought it might help industry move more easily around the region.

Crouse said such a road might give St. Albert residents more mobility, but didn’t think it would restrict the city’s growth.

Edmonton city councillor Ed Gibbons has been promoting the idea of a different ring road that would run about 30 kilometres outside of Edmonton around Morinville, Leduc, and Stony Plain and emphasize rail traffic.

“We’re already having complaints from farmers that their grain’s not moving,” Gibbons said, as well as rising demand from oil companies.

Whereas a ring road would just encourage sprawl, Gibbons said a rail line would reduce traffic jams in Edmonton and link two of the region’s biggest economic engines (the heartland and the international airport) together.

Flynn said Gibbons’s idea was a good conversation starter and was worth a second look.

Alberta Transportation spokesperson Bob McManus said that plans for an outer ring road were on the shelf at the board’s request, and wouldn’t come off it unless the board asked.

“If the regional board changes its mind and wishes to revisit that, we would certainly work with them.”


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