A proposed development in Erin Ridge North threatens to seriously compromise the safety of Lois E. Hole Elementary School students.
The very same “standard” traffic-planning practices that created traffic congestion and safety concerns in Erin Ridge, resulting in a costly ($3.5 million) traffic-calming retrofit, are now being used to justify a decision that puts Lois E. Hole Elementary School students at significant risk. Even though “standard practises” failed to predict that the closure of Coalmine Road would increase traffic in Erin Ridge, they are now being used to override very real safety concerns.
What city administrators refuse to acknowledge is that “standard practises” are guidelines, not mathematical proofs. They proved wrong regarding the closure of Coalmine Road and they are poised to fail again, but with potentially dire consequences.
Lois E. Hole Elementary School is beyond its projected maximum occupancy. Two portable classrooms were required before the school opened; two additional portables are currently being installed. The school is situated on Everitt Drive, a main collector road, and when the school’s 500 students arrive and leave, there is massive congestion. Elise Place and Edinburgh Court North are directly adjacent to the school and both are prime locations for parents searching for parking spots to drop-off and pick-up their children.
Moreover, the school is situated on a curve which results in limited visibility, both east and west, along Everitt Drive, and parents and visitors also park in front and across from the school, reducing visibility even more. As a result the intersections of Elise and Edinburgh become extremely hazardous as residents and parents jockey to enter and exit while hundreds of children cross Everitt Drive to and from their school. Some safety measures have been implemented, but in September, 2019 there will be an additional 200 students.
Adding more traffic to this already dire situation is simply irresponsible, no matter what “standard” traffic-planning practices are called upon to justify it. But this is exactly what the City insists on doing by making Elise and Edinburgh access points for a new development, based on “standard practices” implemented long before Elise and Edinburgh were occupied, Lois E. Hole Elementary School announced, and Coalmine Road closed.
Ironically, the City concedes that much has changed in the five years since the proposed development was approved, but insists it must continue within the constraints imposed by “standard practises.” But these constraints are not written in stone, they’re self-imposed, and when “standard practises” put children’s lives at risk they need to be reconsidered.
But the City has a plan and is intent on imposing that plan, putting the interests of “standard practises” over the safety of its citizens. The concerns of citizens invited to comment on the impact of the proposed subdivision to accommodate the development have been summarily dismissed. The City is determined to impose its misinformed will through the exercise of power, but is attempting to mask that power play behind a thin veneer of consultation and democratic process.
Let’s be clear about the issue at hand, because the City seems confused.
Residents of Elise Place, Edinburgh Court North, Étoile Place, and the parents of children attending Lois E. Hole Elementary School do not object to the proposed 59-unit development to provide more affordable housing in St. Albert—most applaud the decision.
What these citizens do object to is making Elise Place and Edinburgh Court North the access points for the proposed development. Adding additional traffic to two already massively congested intersections will further jeopardize the safety of Lois E. Hole Elementary School students.
There’s a very simple solution to this seeming stand-off: provide access to the proposed development from Neil Ross Road.
Neil Ross Road abuts the north end of the proposed development, and the proposed design is already amenable to two access points at the north end of the development. This does deviate from “standard practises” because Neil Ross Road will be an arterial road, and access points require a speed reduction from 60km/h to 50km/h. But Neil Ross Road won't be open to traffic for five years or more. Moreover, the proposed development is only 250 yards east of the intersection of Element Drive and Neil Ross Road, which already requires a speed reduction to 50km/h.
More to the point, the 250-yard section of Neil Ross Road east of Element Drive to the boundary of the proposed development has already been prepared for surfacing, and is at the same elevation as the proposed development, so no additional groundwork is required to accommodate two access points. The development of this short section of Neil Ross Road and two access points to the proposed development is a much-preferred, proactive option to putting the safety of Lois E. Hole students at greater risk, first from heavy construction equipment accessing the proposed development from Elise Place and Edinburgh Court North, and second from increased traffic from 59 additional residences.
This solution may constitute an inconvenience to the City and developer, but the safety of Lois E. Hole students far outweighs that inconvenience. Were I the developer, I'd much prefer resolving this issue amicably before development begins. The City, however, has not even contacted the developer regarding this issue.
Providing access to the proposed development from Neil Ross Road, although it contravenes “standard practices,” is the most sensible course to ensure the safety of Lois E. Hole Elementary School students. This proactive measure will significantly reduce the possibility of a Lois E. Hole student being injured or killed, after which “standard practices” undoubtedly will be deemed insufficient and an expensive retrofit required. Let’s not make the Coalmine Road mistake all over again. The interests and safety of St. Albert’s citizenry should always come before “standard practices.” I hope the City’s insurance policies are paid up because were I a parent of a child injured of killed because of this slavish devotion to “standard practices,” I’d initiate a lawsuit.
Derek Briton, St. Albert