City council candidates weigh in on Ray Gibbon Drive

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The twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive has been an oft-cited issue by candidates this election. Without a funding commitment from the provincial government, the road expansion remains in limbo.

The Gazette asked candidates how they want to see the project handled. Candidates for council were given a 75-word limit for print while mayoral candidates were given a 150-word limit.

Aside from the candidates listed here, Mark Cassidy, Jacy Eberlein, Jaye Walter, Ray Watkins and Leonard Wilkins are also running for council but did not provide responses.

Q: Is Ray Gibbon Drive a priority and should the city wait for provincial funding or consider dipping into city coffers for the expansion?

A: Cathy Heron, St. Albert Mayoral Candidate
Yes, Ray Gibbon is a priority! This is an urgent need for St. Albert. It will improve the safety and reduce frustration of the drivers, it will allow access to the industrial lands to the west and give future development confidence that goods can be moved. It will benefit the whole region and requires regional collaboration to get it built.
But at a price of more than $300 million to twin the entire length, we will need the province to step up, take ownership of the road and assist in the cost. I have spent the term developing the relationships to get this done.
We may have to widen Ray Gibbon Drive in stages. If we cannot do it all at once, I believe that twinning from Anthony Henday to LeClair Way should be done soon. It is here where the traffic counts are highest and the bottleneck occurs.

A: Cam MacKay, St. Albert Mayoral Candidate
Ray Gibbon Drive is a priority for me. The city needs to take a stronger initiative to fast-track its construction. I would like to work out an agreement with the province similar to when Ray Gibbon Drive was initially built, whereby we pay for the construction and are repaid from the province over several years. The funding for this could be accomplished by re-allocating funds for projects such as road construction under the Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan (DARP). From 2019 to 2022, we have more than $34 million in DARP projects. These funds could be redirected to more pressing concerns, such as the completion of Ray Gibbon Drive.

A: Malcolm Parker, St. Albert Mayoral Candidate
The twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive is a near term priority and lobbying the provincial government with the co-operation of our neighbouring municipalities, Sturgeon County and Morinville, needs to begin immediately. In addition, St. Albert will need to plan funding for our share of this capital project and understand the tax implications before deciding if city reserves are used. Once the project has been approved by all the partners, we can begin construction. This approach was followed with Ray Gibbon Drive as an extension of the Anthony Henday.

A: Sandyne Beach-McCutcheon, St. Albert Council Candidate
Ray Gibbon Drive is a priority. At this time, I would support expansion proceeding when provincial funding has been secured. The addition of Ray Gibbon Drive to the unfunded capital projects listed in the 2017-2019 Alberta Capital Plan is opportune. A heightened advocacy effort at the political level that underscores the regional relevance and impact of the project should be undertaken.

A: Al Bohachyk, St. Albert Council Candidate
Traffic flow would benefit greatly from one additional lane of roadway on Ray Gibbon Drive from 137 Avenue to LeClair Way with centre lane alternating priority based on rush hour demand. This would allow LeClair traffic to flow more freely in both directions. This fix is relatively inexpensive, about 500 to 600 metres, only a single additional lane and additional lights. If not given immediate attention by the province, St Albert should complete this interim step.

A: Wes Brodhead, St. Albert Council Candidate
Ray Gibbon Dive is a priority but prior to St. Albert ever considering to “go it alone” and pay for the expansion of Ray Gibbon, an iron-clad agreement regarding repayment terms must be negotiated with the province. However, a more effective strategy would be to enlist the advocacy help of elected officials from northern municipalities whose citizens would benefit from a completed St. Albert bypass road to have the province upgrade the road’s construction priority.

A: Jan Butler, St. Albert Council Candidate
Ray Gibbon Drive to LeClair Way is a priority, as this area is over capacity and the city must make the capital investment.
Growth in the west is happening rapidly and the focus should be the completion of functional roads in and out of the city to support new and current development. An effective business case for the province to move forward with funding Ray Gibbon Drive in the Alberta Capital Plan is needed.

A: Craig Cameron, St. Albert Council Candidate
Residents and city administration have clearly identified a need to upgrade Ray Gibbon Drive. Administration has put forward a thoughtful plan to phase in the needed extra capacity. This project was on the unfunded listed in the current provincial budget and is currently under review for future investment.  Council should continue to work with the region and province to share the cost of upgrading Ray Gibbon – but we cannot wait too long.

A: Gilbert Cantin, St. Albert Council Candidate
Twinning Ray Gibbon is my program second priority. I think we should get the provincial and the federal governments to participate in the financing.  The federal government has many infrastructure programs which we could get financing through right now. For the province, we might have to be patient. These projects take years to get financing together. It is why we need to keep working on it. We should set aside a yearly amount so we need to borrow less.

A: Jacquie Hansen, St. Albert Council Candidate
Yes, Ray Gibbon Drive is a priority. Ray Gibbon Drive is listed as an unfunded capital project, which means it is way down the provincial priority list. Without a twinned road, the city of St. Albert loses out on economic development that is needed to offset the property tax burden. Ray Gibbon Drive is a regional road and would benefit more than just St. Albert. Council will need to explore funding models, create regional opportunities and pursue strong provincial advocacy.

A: Sheena Hughes, St. Albert Council Candidate
Ray Gibbon Drive is currently past capacity and the traffic only continues to increase. The province acknowledged it is their responsibility, but with no solution start date. Council must make this a higher priority than optional projects such as the branch library. St. Albert needs to take the initiative to front-end Phase 1 with an agreed repayment plan from the province.  We cannot wait another five to 10 years to address this issue.

A: Charlene Jelinski, St. Albert Council Candidate
Yes, the twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive is necessary and needs to be made a priority. I do not think we can wait much longer for the provincial funding. We should consider using other funding options while continuing to lobby the provincial government to make it a priority. This expansion is needed in St. Albert to improve traffic concerns throughout the city.

A: Natalie Joly, St. Albert Council Candidate
St. Albert cannot reasonably complete this project on our own without placing a tremendous tax burden on residents; $254.3 million is the 2015 cost estimate for twinning Ray Gibbon Drive, including four required overpasses. As your councillor, I will make it a priority to develop strong relationships with crucial stakeholders and communities to our north to join together in advocacy for this expansion. Our success will be established through the leadership we demonstrate throughout the region.

A: Shayne Kawalilak, St. Albert Council Candidate
I believe that it should have been four lanes to start with, and had we not buckled to pressures of environmental groups, we would have likely been there already. I love Big Lake and the Sturgeon River as much as anyone and want my nine kids to be able to enjoy them long after I am gone but punishing drivers by reducing traffic flow is not the solution. I will re-iterate that I love our natural gifts but trading road salt and engine oil for tons of air pollution from idling thousands of cars per day in gridlock traffic is unacceptable. Our river is not more important than all others in this province but we punish drivers because we treat it so. I believe that the expansion should be done to provincial standards and not elevated municipal standards which require storm drainage systems and curbs (making it impossible to repair a flat tire).
Ray Gibbon should be an extension of the Henday and should connect to Highway 2 (without lights) as soon as financially feasible. I believe with our current economic atmosphere, with people looking for work and borrowing costs at record lows, we should be moving forward and fast-tracking this project.

A: Mark Kay, St. Albert Council Candidate
Twinning Ray Gibbon should absolutely be a top traffic priority. Rush hour is a very frustrating time on that road. Double lanes would help ease congestion on St. Albert Trail. I think we should look into if it’s affordable to dip into city coffers, but we have to be careful about the cost to our residents as it should ideally be a provincial priority. We need to look at what’s best for our community.

A: Ken MacKay, St. Albert Council Candidate
Efforts to twin Ray Gibbon Drive must remain a high priority. However, the costs are prohibitive and do not make it feasible to take on alone. I do believe that we can relieve some of the congestion by upgrading the road in phases, lessening the congestion from the Anthony Henday to LeClair Way. We must continue efforts to advocate with the provincial government and engage our regional neighbours to demonstrate the benefits completing the road would have for us all.

A: Ufuoma Odebala-Fregene, St. Albert Council Candidate
Ray Gibbon Drive is certainly a priority, but dipping into the city coffers for the expansion is not a viable option at this time. May I suggest we turn our attention to affordability without tax increases as a criteria for deciding whether or not we can afford anything.  Projected tax increases to maintain current services currently stands at 5 per cent, comprising of 2.9 for property assessments and 2.1 per cent for utility rate hike.  We are still waiting for the impact when the capital tax is added.  This is unacceptable.

A: Nestor Petriw, St. Albert Council Candidate
I don’t consider Ray Gibbon Drive to be a priority (I would be happy to hear from any residents who think otherwise). As for funding, the province should absolutely contribute to the cost of the expansion. I am 100 per cent opposed to the idea that the city should fund the expansion on its own. There are more important things in the city that need funding!

A: Hannes Rudolph, St. Albert Council Candidate
Twinning Ray Gibbon Drive is important for St. Albert’s long-term growth. The road already sees heavy traffic. The planned industrial park nearby and Jensen Lakes will add even more traffic.
The province is needed to help fund this project as it will cost an estimated $300 million. I will advocate on behalf of St. Albert to get the financial assistance we need to complete this project.

A: Bob Russell, St. Albert Council Candidate
Ray Gibbon Drive is a safety issue and a second lane must be added in 2018  from Hole’s to Villeneuve Road. We keep account of the cost and invoice the provincial government for future payment since the province has committed to paying for the connection of Ray Gibbon Drive to Highway 2 north.

A: Steve Stone, St. Albert Council Candidate
Yes, top priority. Pardon the pun: roadway solutions need concrete action. The cost for Ray Gibbon Drive should be the province’s but it is St. Albertans who are suffering. We have to act. Here’s a possible temporary solution until the road is fully twinned: twin from Anthony Henday Drive to LeClair Way. Institute traffic flow one-way only from Giroux to LeClair: southbound 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., northbound 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (Similar to Edmonton’s 97 Street north). The cost is affordable.

A: Tash Taylor, St. Albert Council Candidate
Ray Gibbon Drive is a serious priority as it adds commute time and can be unsafe. As the west side develops further, the situation will worsen. With a provincial election on the horizon and continued economic uncertainty, we can no longer bank on hope as the strategy. We need to consider a bargaining approach and put some chips on the table. This advocacy approach often works well when resources are limited and needs are localized.

A: Barry Zukewich, St. Albert Council Candidate
The twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive should be a top traffic priority. With the growth in the north side of St. Albert, I can’t imagine what traffic will be like in five years if the current lack of action with the project remains. We need to explore all options to at least complete twinning of the roadway from Anthony Henday to Giroux Road. A self-funded option might be a possible option in the interim.

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