City councillors got a first look at what the city’s most recently acquired portion of St. Albert Trail could look like in the future, but they are waiting to solve the smart growth debate before going any further down the road.
On Monday night, councillors tabled a conceptual plan that will provide a new standard for development following a resolution of the smart growth debate in March.
The report envisions a road with wide sidewalks, bike lanes, street parking and an LRT line up the middle decades in the future and sets a long-term plan for reaching that goal.
The St. Albert Trail North Arterial Corridor Management Plan is a draft vision for what the Trail will look like from Villeneuve Road to the edge of the annexed lands and sets out a timeline for getting there.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said he likes the vision of the Trail as a pedestrian and transit friendly road with businesses closer to the street, but he said that sort of look for the road has to be considered as part of the broader look of the community, which the smart growth debate is trying to settle.
“I really liked the concepts, everything from transit to the trees and the attractive look. I was quite pleased with the attractive future it could bring, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it until the smart growth issue gets settled.”
The report, which council was told Monday cost $150,000, was drafted to determine how the city could integrate the existing rural highway into a road with a more urban standard.
The current capital budget has a $36.5 million item on the unfunded list for achieving that, but engineering director Todd Wyman said this document shows the city how to achieve the draft proposal without that expense.
“We can have it in its current state with the understanding that as development comes along we can reclaim some of it and bring up gradually to an urban standard.”
Wyman said the $36.5 million was a rough estimate for taking the entire existing road out and replacing it with an urban one, similar to what the road looks like south of Villeneuve with sidewalks, curbs, gutters and other urban amenities.
He said rather than doing that, the plan gives them a way to gradually convert the existing road and achieve the same result.
“We can take bite sized chunks and proceed. We don’t need to be ripping apart everything all at once and rebuilding it.”
He said the city can also profit from the exercise because the road right of way that is there today is much larger than what the city needs for an urban road.
“There are actually surplus lands that become available that we don’t need for transportation movement and could potentially sell back to the development industry.”
Crouse said the development of this section of the road could also set the benchmark of what the road would look like through the rest of the community.