With a major provincial highway running through downtown, it’s no surprise that traffic safety is a big talking point in Morinville. Councillors have repeatedly lobbied for new crosswalks, signals and lights to protect pedestrians, often butting heads with Alberta Transportation in the process.
Photo radar has been this topic’s biggest lightning rod. Scores on social media deride it as a cash-cow, and the town actually held a plebiscite on whether or not to keep it in 2014. (They kept it.) Town council has spent countless hours debating how to use and regulate the technology.
Cars aren’t going away anytime soon. The Gazette asked Morinville’s seven council candidates what they would do to improve traffic safety in their community, and what role, if any, photo radar would play.
Not married to radar
Candidates were lukewarm at best in their support of photo radar.
Candidate Neil McDougall said council should advocate for more traffic lights at key intersections to allow for safe turning and merging, and consider building merge and left-turn lanes. He also wanted to see pedestrian-controlled flashing lights at any marked crosswalk that did not have traffic lights.
“Photo radar is supposed to discourage speeding, and this should be the crux of their contract,” he continued.
“If they’re not living up to their contract, or if it’s deemed to not reduce speeding, the contract should be terminated.”
Candidate Sarah Hall said she would call for more speed-display signs in high-risk areas. As for photo radar, she said she liked what council had done in its recent changes to its photo radar policy, and supported the technology so long as it was used as a tool to improve safety.
“If it’s not used specifically for safety, then I don’t see the purpose of it being there.”
Candidate Lawrence Giffin said he would like to see at least six pedestrian crosswalk lights installed along 100 Ave. and four on 100 St. to improve public safety.
He also opposed photo radar, as he did not believe it stopped speeding.
“I’d much rather see peace officers in place in school zones than photo radar because (officers) can stop people who are speeding and do something about it immediately.”
Candidate Stephen Dafoe said the town had taken many steps to address traffic safety, including a town-wide mobility study and the installation of solar powered crosswalk lights. Many residents had told him that they appreciate the flashing stop signs at 100 Ave. and Grandin that were installed at his suggestion, which he called a low-cost safety initiative.
“I’d love to see curb extensions on 100 Ave. if we can get them past Alberta Transportation,” he said, as they would let drivers and pedestrians better see each other around parked cars.
He also wanted to see more speed display signs, which he believed helped drivers slow down.
Dafoe noted that he had convinced council to put all photo radar cash towards traffic, pedestrian, and public safety initiatives and to have a conversation about keeping, ending, or bringing in in-house photo radar before its current contract is up.
“My personal take is I’d like speeders dealt with by boots on the ground, tap-on-the-window enforcement. That way we are getting expired plates, no insurance, and even outstanding warrants.”
Candidate Nicole Boutestein said the town was locked into its contract with photo radar provider ITS/Global until April 2019 and would have to pay over $300,000 to opt out early. (A report to council last July put the cost at $369,200.) She also noted that all photo radar cash was now going towards community safety initiatives such as the solar-powered lights along the path into South Glens.
Boutestein said she would make a decision on photo radar based on the facts and community consultation when the ITS/Global contract was up for renewal.
While she said that the town had eliminated some of the cash-cow spots for it, candidate Rebecca Balanko said she opposed continuing photo radar in Morinville.
“As someone who has had one of those envelopes arrive, I don’t feel it does anything to make our streets safer. It’s like having an exit interview for a job you’ve had for 20 years, only to be informed you’ve not done it right.”
Candidate Scott Richardson did not submit a reply by deadline.
Morinville residents can vote in the advance poll on the second floor of St. Germain Place this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The regular poll will be at the Community Cultural Centre on Oct. 16 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Visit http://www.morinville.ca/election for details.