Let’s face it: St. Albert can be a difficult place to traverse via automobile. What makes it difficult, besides the multitude of traffic lights, is the multitude of speed limits.
Roads can change from 50 km/h to 30 km/h for short distances. Some arterials are 50 km/h, while others are 60 km/h. Some neighbourhoods are 50 km/h, while others are 40 km/h.
A major review of the city’s speed limits may change all that.
City staff delivered a much-anticipated review of St. Albert’s speed limits to one of council’s two main committees on Monday, which will be passed up to council proper sometime soon for a full debate and decision.
The review suggests dropping speed limits on neighbourhood roadways to 40 km/h and increasing some segments of city arterial roadways to 60 km/h. The latter suggestion includes part of Sir Winston Churchill Avenue between Riel and Levasseur and from the corner of Poirier and Sir Winston Churchill northeast to the city limits; Bellerose Drive from Evergreen to the city limits; Sturgeon Road from Beacon Crescent to Boudreau; and Dawson Road from Giroux to McKenney.
Notably, McKenney itself is left out of the arterial speed changes. Transportation manager Dean Schick told councillors Monday McKenney is different from other arterials because of direct accesses, such as commercial access on both sides of the road between Langley and Dawson. The review revealed parts of McKenney closer to St. Albert Trail are at a higher risk for roadside hazards and cyclist exposure, among other issues.
The review also suggests removing some short 30 km/h zones, such as the one on Sturgeon Road between Burns Street and Burnham Avenue, and changing elementary school zones to playground zones that would be in effect from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day of the year.
An honest discussion about speed limits always requires a balancing act between safety and functionality. Some say one collision, injury or death is too many, while others hyperbolize that you may as well ban vehicles if you don’t want any collisions.
Obviously, all drivers are fallible. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim to cut down on the amount of collisions that occur. The city clearly has a role to play, and reducing speeds in residential areas where children play appears to have had some success so far. In Erin Ridge, between April and November of 2018 there were 22 collisions; during the same period in 2019, after councillors voted to lower the speed limit to 40, collisions dropped to 14. Lacombe Park saw its collisions drop from 25 to 16 over the same period, although Erin Ridge North saw a small increase from eight to nine.
The changes to neighbourhood speed limits would mean slightly longer drives for some residents, and could impact service levels for city buses that would take longer to get from Point A to Point B. However, council has shown a serious interest in making our local roadways safer for all travelers and whether driving, walking or cycling, this report is a good place to start. It will also bring some welcome consistency to the inconsistent speed limits in our city.