This past Monday Lacombe City council was presented with two options to prevent motorist from making illegal left hand turns from 50 St. onto 50 Ave. (Hwy. 12).
“There is a bargain option or there is the Cadillac option,” said Director of Infrastructure Matthew Goudy. He added that because of the vast different in cost and functionality of the two options, both were being presented to council in order to gain input.
Left turns are not allowed from 50 St. onto 50 Ave. and there is signage present at the intersection to make drivers aware. However, administration stated that not everyone complies and many drivers are observed making unsafe left hand turns at the intersection.
To correct this, council budgeted $27,500 for the capital cost of engineering and constructing a concrete barrier island that would prevent motorists from making the left hand turn. This type of barrier is known as a ‘pork chop’.
Option 1, the ‘Cadillac option’, for the pork chop is to not only install the barrier but to improve the intersection by creating a bulb shape to both curbs on the north side of the intersection, thereby enlarging the curbs and sidewalk. Goudy said this option is advantageous because it aligns with the City’s Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan (DARP), the bulb effect decreases the distance taken to cross the streets and improves pedestrian visibility.
Goudy added that this option is significantly more expensive, will restrict semi-truck movement from Hwy. 12 onto 50 St. and will eliminate at least one parking stall on 50 Ave.
Option 2 is to simply construct the pork chop barrier with no other modifications.
Goudy said this option is less desirable as it does not improve pedestrian safety and contravenes DARP guidelines and will still eliminate at least one parking stall.
Councillor Reuben Konnik said he liked Option 1 better, but expressed the importance of consulting downtown businesses when such issues affect them.
He said he had some concerns about sidewalk maintenance, like snow shoveling on the extended sidewalks and the amount of semi-truck traffic on 50 St.
Goudy said that the reason the options were being presented to council before consulting downtown businesses was in order to have a firmer idea of the plans. He added those businesses would be responsible for shoveling snow from the extended curb and that semi-truck traffic onto 50 St. is not overly common.
Mayor Steve Christie also supported the first option of the plan.
“I too prefer this better design and it almost would serve as a traffic calming measure as well.”
Councillor Grant Harder did not agree. He said that, to him, the diagrams indicated there would be a harsher impact on parking than administration predicted. He also stressed the importance of finding the best possible solution for the intersection and he was not happy with either option.
“It’s a very important intersection, it is one of the most important intersections we have in the City,” said Harder. “I’m not sure that I like either one of the proposals.”
Councillor Wayne Armishaw argued that such measures may not even be necessary at the intersection.
“I’ve never really felt that was a dangerous intersection. I know that people make that left hand turn, I don’t observe many people doing it.”
However, council decided to adopt the recommended option at an additional cost of $82,750 with Armishaw and Harder voting against the motion. The additional funds outside the $27,500 capital budget item will be allocated from the Downtown Sidewalk Enhancement Budget.
Goudy said that the City is able to do this because the project includes the aesthetic bulbing of the sidewalks with paving stone that is outlined in the DARP. He added the reason this expensive option was still considered even though it is outside the $27,500 budget (and why the budget might seem low) was because administration knew funds for the project existed within the Downtown Sidewalk Enhancement Budget.
Goudy said the cost is comparable to similar projects in Central Alberta and even in City of Lacombe (such as the streetscaping project done some years ago around the Lacombe Memorial Centre). He added that the City would rather over-budget than under-budget and looking at all such projects he has managed for the City of Lacombe, he would estimate 95% of them came in under budget.