32nd Street traffic lights a town priority
Wednesday, Apr 02, 2014 08:28 am
Okotoks motorists could see two additional traffic lights on one of the town’s busiest roads as soon as this year.
During its regular meeting on March 24, Town council voted unanimously to apply for the Basic Municipal Transportation Grant to fund two traffic lights on 32nd Street, one at Crystal Shores Road and the other at Drake Landing Drive. The lights are proposed to improve pedestrian safety and reduce delays motorists experience while accessing the busy street at peak traffic hours. The cost of each project is $252,500.
The decision follows a traffic analysis review of several intersections in Okotoks conducted by Calgary’s Bunt & Associates in November last year to determine the adequacy of the intersections and whether improvement are needed for traffic and pedestrian safety.
“If professional engineers tell us this is warranted for this particular area, council is bound to do what the professionals tell us,” said Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson following council’s decision. “If there is a concern about it today, if nothing is done about it things aren’t going to improve on their own. Public safety has to be first and foremost.”
Okotoks resident Connie Greenshields, who drives through both intersections daily, agrees with council’s decision.
“Just in the last eight to 10 months I’ve probably noticed a much higher need for it than I had two years ago,” she said, adding she’s noticed traffic and pedestrian volumes increased.
Greenshields said she witnessed incidents where pedestrians are almost struck by vehicles at the intersections.
“It’s so dangerous for them, especially at night,” she said. “Pedestrians assumed they could be seen and cars were coming up the hill and not necessarily watching.”
Bunt & Associates’ study for the 32nd Street and Crystal Shores Road intersection showed excessive delays during peak times in the afternoon for westbound traffic and the Drake Landing intersection revealed excessive delays at peak hours for westbound traffic, according to the report.
Robertson said installing traffic lights rather than a controlled crosswalk at the two intersections is necessary.
“It’s a growing community, especially during the flood and post flood season,” he said. “We had all kinds of extra traffic and a lot of that is still here. There are people from the region that are accessing our businesses that didn’t access them before. People become habitual. Traffic stays.”
Robertson said the study was conducted in response to concerns from residents regarding intersections in the community, including motorists not yielding to pedestrians and difficulty turning onto major roads, particularly the intersections approved for the street lights if funding is provided and the intersection of Westland Street and Westmount Drive and Crystal Ridge Drive and North Railway Drive.
The Bunt & Associates report states that based on pedestrian and traffic volumes at the Westmount intersection the east side of the intersection is a candidate for a north-south pedestrian crossing, yet did not recommend traffic control the intersection. It also deemed the North Railway Drive intersection as sufficient for traffic control and not a candidate for pedestrian crossing control.
Robertson said he is aware of concerns in the community about the amount of traffic lights on Southridge and Northridge Drive, and the length of time it can take to get from one end of town to the other, but safety comes first.
Coun. Tanya Thorn said she supports the installation of traffic lights at those two locations, but is concerned 32nd Street could end up like Northridge and Southridge Drive.
“I really don’t want to see another Southridge Northridge that it takes a long time to get through,” she said. “If you are putting stoplights at every intersection on there it’s really not accomplishing much.”
Thorn said council should consider more effective ways to move traffic in future considerations.
“As we look at doing this more we need to be thinking bigger picture when we start putting these traffic lights in,” she said.
“Does it make more sense to put a traffic circle there and put a pedestrian bridge over the road? Should we be having a light at very intersection?”
Although council may need to consider this in the future, Thorn said she believes traffic lights are the best solution to address public concerns about pedestrian and traffic safety at the 32nd Street intersections.
“I’ve been up there and it’s a pain trying to get out of those intersections depending on the time of day and the number of kids crossing there,” she said. “At minimum we need a pedestrian light for sure. If (traffic) lights make it that much safer that’s great.”
With Okotoks growing as quickly as it is, Thorn said it’s also important for council to consider the safest option for its residents.
“We’ve got a safety issue at those intersections, a high volume of kids,” she said.
“They are trying to cross at uncontrolled intersections. There needs to be a solution there.”
Robertson said if the grant is not approved for the two 32nd Street traffic lights, the issue will return to council to determine a funding source.