What is the Corridor Enhancement Plan?
On October 8th, at the Sundre Community Centre, the Corridor Enhancement Committee of Council hosted a public information session regarding a Corridor Pilot Project. This committee was formed in 2013 and is made up of residents, stakeholders and Councillors. The job of the Committee is to review a study (the Genivar report) compiled by consultants, get feedback from local residents and businesses, and make recommendations to Council as to how changes should be made to improve Highway 27 through Sundre. The plan also covers parts of Centre Street.
There is some history to this issue. The Town of Sundre doesn't own Highway 27 - the Province does. In 2008, Alberta Transportation made the decision to change Highway 27 through Sundre from 2 lanes to 4 lanes. The reason for the change was that there was expected to be increases in traffic volumes and this was seen as a logical solution to traffic flow.
The change has raised many safety concerns from citizens as large trucks pass, what many complain to be dangerously close to pedestrians on the sidewalk. Businesses have complained about debris being bounced from the roadway. The "original parking lanes" are deteriorating and breaking up as they were not originally intended, according to some, to carry such heavy traffic so regularly.
Some businesses have cited a 30% loss in revenue with the loss of parking and the reduced "foot traffic" past their businesses - and that comes from businesses that continue to operate. There have been businesses that have simply closed the doors. There is concern from the Chamber of Commerce that perhaps $15 million in lost revenue may have been one of the unintended consequences of this change from 2 lanes to 4 lanes. This is a devastating economic reality for any community.
Safety is the most important concern for all of us. A year ago, Town officials met with Alberta Transportation and heard that there is recognition that a change is necessary to address safety concerns of local residents and businesses. An Alberta Transportation official was at the Corridor Enhancement Public Meeting October 8th to hear concerns from local residents and businesses, and that official also met with the Corridor Enhancement Committee to review the input from those in attendance. Town officials will be meeting with Alberta Transportation in Edmonton in November to continue finding a solution to this very serious safety concern for our residents.
The "Plan" that is being talked about is to reduce 4 lanes to 3 lanes (one lane each direction with a turning lane in the center) and move traffic further away from the sidewalks to address the most important "pedestrian safety" issue. In addition, we have to have better parking options for shoppers and tourists, better "way finding" signs, and we need to enhance the "comfort and feel" for those walking along the sidewalk.
This is a big job. It starts with an application to Alberta Transportation for a "Pilot Project" that will allow us to "check the plan" before it is made permanent. Highway 27 belongs to Alberta Transportation - and they need time, like the Town of Sundre, to find money in Capital Plan priorities to approve projects. The Chamber of Commerce has been very helpful in "pushing" Alberta Transportation for action on this issue, which really helps Town officials in their meetings with Alberta Transportation. We hope to have "action" by Spring of 2015. Everyone involved is very committed to addressing safety concerns that have been brought to us. Thank you to all who have been working behind the scenes to deal with this important community issue.
Please call me at home at 403-638-3535 if you would like to talk further about this, or any other issue of concern to you.
Mayor Terry Leslie