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Maze of barricades, detours draws ire from businesses downtown

Road construction is well underway all over St. Albert.

The City of St. Albert’s annual road construction projects are underway with designs on the go in every corner of the city. 

One maintenance project that has drawn a great deal of anger and frustration from businesses are barricades that have closed off major portions of downtown streets and reduced the city’s core to a maze. 

The city hired Rulam Construction to conduct curb, gutter, and asphalt repair on Perron Street. The game plan is to perform the work in stages from May 31 to June 26. It involves road and curb cutting, removal of existing sidewalks, removal of crosswalks, and milling of the roadway. Although most of the work is planned for Perron, the semi-closure of the main street has effectively cut off traffic to side roads.

Pedestrian access has been maintained. Downtown businesses, on the other hand, whose earnings dropped more than 50 per cent in some cases during COVID, are angry and desperate that vehicle and foot traffic have limited access to their shops. 

“Do they need to shut down and take away all the parking?” said Tammy Formoe, owner of Saint City Vapes on St. Thomas Street. “We’ve come back from COVID and here’s another shot." 

Greg Wright of Mint Beauty Boutique added, “We’re trying to create awareness. People don’t know we’re here and this is hurting us even more.” 

Dean Schick, city manager of transportation, said he empathizes and understands the concerns. 

“When we do any street construction traffic accommodation plans, we look at prioritizing safety for workers, safety for users going through or around work zones. Then following that, we want to maintain accessibility and connectivity to land use, including businesses or residential property. With the downtown project in the accommodation plan, albeit daunting, the signs of detours does specifically allow access to businesses. There’s an impact to parking, but there are parking options and we’re trying to promote that in our message boards,” said Schick. 

Road construction city-wide 

On a broader scale, some capital growth projects causing an impact include St. Albert Trail north improvements and the Ray Gibbon Drive widening. Intersection work is ongoing at Boudreau Road and Bellerose Drive with more enhancements at Ebony and Everitt. 

The widening of St. Albert Trail north, a two-year project that experienced short-term delays, is expected to be completed this year. Intersections have been widened while accommodating utilities, sidewalks, trails, and landscaping, Schick said. 

The project also includes improvements to Coal Mine Road from Ebony, as well as Villeneuve Road west of the trail to the Walmart commercial site. 

“It’s expected the St. Albert Trail improvements and section work will be completed in 2021. But the Villeneuve work may be deferred until 2022.” 

Further west, the Ray Gibbon Drive work is an expansion of what was completed in Phase 1. Phase 2 goes from north of LeClaire Way to McKenney Avenue. 

“In 2021, a lot of work will be off the existing roadway, widening new southbound lanes being constructed. There will be some impact at St. Albert Trail and McKenney as the work on the south side is completed. What we’re doing is widening McKenney to be a four-lane. Where it ties into right now it ends in a two-lane crossing," said Schick. 

At Everitt Drive north are plans for a redesign from its current four-legged intersection into a round-about to improve the volume of traffic flow. 

“Roundabouts are a fantastic design consideration,” said Schick. 

At Boudreau and Bellerose, a major traffic intersection, a turn-lane redesign is underway to improve additional traffic flow and safety modifications. 

Smaller projects scattered throughout the city include curb, gutter, and repaving on Giroux, laying sidewalks on Riel Drive connecting to Sir Winston Churchill Avenue, and improving a pedestrian crossing at Poirier and Pineview. 

The city is also adding warning flashers for pedestrian safety at 32 sites and will look to implement a Neighbourhood Calming Plan for Erin Ridge north with a series of pedestrian-crossing improvements.  

“Our commitment to improve our transportation network by addressing key areas such as Boudreau and Bellerose, and the Everitt Drive improvements to reduce congestion, and like the St. Albert Trail widening and Ray Gibbon widening, are all very important to our network, providing good service to our road users,” said Schick. 

A total figure for the cost of the projects was not immediately available.