When it comes to driving in St. Albert, 40 km/h is the new 50 km/h on residential roadways.
On Tuesday, St. Albert city council unanimously passed second and third readings of changes to the city's traffic bylaw, which include bringing down residential road speeds to 40 km/h, some arterial roads to 60 km/h, and making school zone start times earlier.
"This is a brave and a big move for the City of St. Albert and I'm happy to see some support around this," said Mayor Cathy Heron. "It's about putting safety first – are you in favour of ensuring that someone, some dog, some vehicle suffers less harm? That's what a 10 km/h difference has proven."
Changes won't take effect all at once, said city transportation manager Dean Schick, but would happen in a staged approach over the next three to four months.
The implementation plan will be finalized and made public in the next few weeks. But right now, the goal is to incorporate a more holistic approach, Schick said. Neighbourhoods would likely be converted as a whole, and staff are investigating whether school zone time changes could be done city-wide.
"The key is that when changes are made, they are not made in such a way that it's confusing to road users, number one, and that the message is very clear that the changes have been implemented," he said. "We don't want to catch anyone off guard."
Council approved taking $230,000 from the city's traffic safety reserve to fund all the work required to do this.
New signs will be posted on neighbourhood streets and collector roads, which connect neighbourhoods to larger arterial roads. That work is expected to cost $60,000. Playground zone sign changes are expected to cost $5,000. Improvements for pedestrian crossings improvements, like overhead crossing flashers on Dawson Rd., will cost $150,000. About $15,000 will be spent on educating the public on the changes.
Other Albertan cities have also opted to decrease residential road speeds, including Edmonton (40 km/h), Beaumont (40 km/h) and Airdrie (30 km/h).
What are the changes?
Taking traffic speeds down to 40 km/h on local and collector roads was done in a bid to reduce collisions in the city. One third of all collisions, and 15 per cent of severe collisions, occur on neighbourhood roadways in St. Albert, according to the city.
While survey results last year showed 57 per cent of respondents were against the changes, Schick said a substantial number of those people said they would be OK with slower speeds on local roads, but not collector roads. Changes for both were important for consistency for drivers, he said.
With the new residential limits approved, reduced speeds in playground zones will be in effect from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from April 1 to Oct. 31.
Council also approved a motion from Coun. Sheena Hughes to make school zone times half an hour earlier, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. when school is in session, after receiving feedback from local school boards.
Drivers can press on the gas to 60 km/h when driving sections of arterial roadways listed below:
- Bellerose Dr.: Evergreen Dr. to North city limit
- Sir Winston Churchill Ave.: Levasseur Rd. to Riel Dr.
- Dawson Rd.: Giroux Rd. to McKenney Ave.
- Poirier Ave.: Sir Winston Churchill Ave to Campbell Rd.
As you head west, drivers can go 70 km/h on Meadowview Dr. from Range Road 260 to city limits, up from the original 60 km/h limit.
The removal of 30 km/h slow zones would happen on sections listed below:
- Cunningham Rd.: south of Sycamore to Stanley Dr.
- Sturgeon Road: Burns St. to Bishop St.
- Mission Ave.: South of Malmo Ave. to north of St. Vital Ave.
- Meadowview Dr.: west of Range Road tracks
- Grosvenor Blvd.: Gaylord Pl. to south of Grenfell Ave.
- Grenfell Ave.: Gatewood Ave. to Greenwich Cres.
St. Albert's 'drag strip'
Seven residents spoke about the changes during a three-hour public hearing on Tuesday. Three asked council to reconsider the original plan to up speeds from 50 km/h to 60 km/h on Sir Winston Churchill Ave.
This would have allowed people to speed up from Poirier Ave. to north city limits, a road residents already call a "dangerous section of road."
"Let me just say what everyone already knows about that road – it's St. Albert's drag strip. This is where drivers go when you want to put the pedal to the metal," said Jeff Bertram, whose neighbourhood backs onto Sir Winston Churchill Ave. closer to Poundmaker Rd.
"In the 31 years that I've lived here, I've witnessed vehicles coming in from Sturgeon County or leaving St. Albert well in excess of 100 km/h," he said, adding this includes commercial vehicles, trailers and motorcycles as well. Increasing speeds would only encourage drivers in an area where more enforcement is needed.
"Residents here would welcome some sort of traffic enforcement along this stretch of road."
Coun. Jacquie Hansen put forward a motion to strike that section of Sir Winston Churchill from the 10 km/h speed increase. Council passed it unanimously.
"We've got some work to do around that whole area in terms of safety. Drag racing is probably not something we want to be promoting in St. Albert," Hansen said.
Cathy Stefner said she had concerns with a proposal to increase speeds on the section of Sturgeon Road, citing unclear sight lines with the road's elevation. She said increasing speeds here could have impacts on safety.
Coun. Ken MacKay put forward a motion to keep Sturgeon Road from Beacon Cres. to Boudreau Rd. at 50 km/h. Council passed that in a 6-1 vote, with Coun. Wes Brodhead against.
"We're really going to be confusing everybody, so let's keep this portion consistent," MacKay said, noting he worried the city would be creating a "significant problem" if it changed the speed in that area, especially given the blind corner along that section of roadway.