At least one city councillor says the installation of a traffic light at the intersection of 44 Street and Franklin Avenue cannot wait and because of safety, the time for action is now.
Coun. Rommel Silverio was the lone vote Dec. 10 against an amendment to defer adding traffic lights to the 44 Street and Franklin Avenue intersection.
The light was among the last-minute amendments council debated before city council passed Budget 2019 this month. Council ended up voting in favour of spending $200,000 on widening the intersection and adding new traffic lights but on the condition that a new traffic study be completed and if city administration then finds it advisable.
Last year, council approved spending $500,000 on the installation project, but since then, administration has determined the cost to be $700,000 — $200,000 higher than expected. According to this year’s budget, the city has bought some initial equipment, including poles, in anticipation of the traffic lights going in in 2019.
Silverio said council has seen the issue a number of times since last year’s budget and people in the area have been calling for it. He finds it frustrating that the city can’t move forward with the project.
“To me it is a preventative measure,” Silverio said this week. “If there is one life that can be saved or if one accident or incident that can be avoided, that is now enough for me. That is a return of investment to me. ”
Coun. Julian Morse initially proposed removing the budget item that would call for widening the intersection and traffic lights installation next year. Morse said he didn’t think there was enough data to show there was a need for the expense and that he was concerned about potential backup and frustration among daily commuters because the intersection involves two steep hills.
“The primary (concern) is we are making this decision knowing the traffic light — according to studies done thus far– is not needed,” he said. “So in that sense I am hesitant to spend a significant chunk of taxpayers money on something unneeded.”
Morse said the city should look at crosswalks or other traffic calming options to mitigate vehicle density through the area if pedestrian safety is an issue for council.
Public works director Chris Greencorn said traffic studies with vehicle counts were done by a professional traffic engineer in 2011 and 2015 for the intersection – neither of which called directly for a traffic light, as stipulated by Transportation Association of Canada guidelines. Both of those studies, however, came before the Twin Pine Hill 126-unit condominium development was completed, where more vehicles and more pedestrians are now commuting.
He said, however, that there were suggestions in those studies that the city should monitor traffic volumes as a light becomes more needed and that the Twin Pine Hill condo developer should contribute to 20.2 per cent of the full cost of any new traffic light installation.
“What I would urge would be that we carry out a traffic study in 2019,” Greencorn told council, adding the cost estimate for the study is between $10,000 and $15,000.
“We would bring back (results) in 2020 for further consideration. If those traffic volumes determine that (a traffic light) was not required then we would provide an update at that time.”
Coun. Steve Payne, a hairdressing teacher at nearby St. Patrick High School, spoke strongly in favour of a traffic light but supported the motion to get new traffic data before proceeding.
“Working in that area, I know we need a traffic light because I try to get out of there all the time,” he said. “It is hellish.
“I have never realized getting a traffic light would require so much effort, it blows my mind. It is primarily a safety issue.”
Payne said the intersection gets heavy, daily use with 2,000 students being dropped off or accessing the school in addition to as well as a 126-unit condo development with road access up through student parking, more than one hotel, Watermark Tower with numerous residents and Lambridge Tower with more than 100 employees.
Janet Toner, assistant superintendent of business at the Yellowknife Catholic Schools board, said the board has been concerned for a number of years about density building up along 44 Street.
“We definitely want it because of student safety and a traffic light would make it more of a safe way to travel across the street,” she said, adding that at darker times of the year, there can be visibility issues where students frequent.
“We are also concerned about the intersection with Kimberlite Career and Technical Centre with the new condo development road and traffic coming down. Because of the bend, visibility is low and we are concerned about that particular area being an unsafe crossing for students.”