By Trevor Busch
Plans for construction of a pedestrian sidewalk along 46th Avenue to the town’s southeast retail development are still awaiting final approval, but direction has been given by town council to improve stormwater drainage in the area.
During 2013 budget deliberations, council had requested a sidewalk for pedestrians be constructed in 46th Avenue, which was added to the 2014 asphalt and concrete replacement tender, but went uncompleted at that time due to objections surrounding the proposed orientation of the sidewalk in front of several local businesses.
At their July 21 meeting, town council had tabled a decision on the future of the project until the presentation of a Stormwater Master Plan at their Aug. 17 meeting.
“We need to drain that area. That’s a priority,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas on Aug. 17. “I don’t see how we can proceed if we don’t know about putting those culverts in there or not. Until we get approval of those culverts, I don’t see how we can facilitate a sidewalk. I think that would have to be our first step, if council’s in agreement, to see if we can get those culverts put in.”
Businesses in the area (Potato Growers of Alberta, Horizon Implements, Fitch Tire, Buffalo Head Veterinary Clinic, and Boston Pizza) assembled as a delegation at the June 23, 2014 council meeting, detailing their objections to the construction of a sidewalk on the south side of 46th Avenue. On July 11, 2014, public works held a meeting with business owners in the area to discuss those concerns, including the exit and egress of customers and suppliers potentially being impeded by pedestrian traffic, and danger to pedestrians due to the area being heavy traffic and high volume. Instances of vandalism were also reported, and it was suggested that proper lighting could help rectify this issue. Business representatives were also unsure of property boundary lines, and were concerned if a sidewalk would encroach on these boundaries.
According to administration, the cost of constructing a sidewalk on the north side of 46th Avenue would be double the estimated cost of a south side contruction.
“I’ve watched where people walk, and they walk on the south side,” said public works director Gary Scherer. “Almost 95 per cent of the people walk on the south side.”
Placing a sidewalk on the north side of 46th Avenue along the existing drainage ditch was investigated by administration, but was determined to be a less than attractive option, considering drainage issues, required permission from Alberta Transportation, and driving construction costs above the budget which had been established by the town.
“For one thing, it comes with a cost for the north side,” said Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux. “Because it’s a drainage ditch, it’s been explained to us the cost is almost double to put it on the north side. And human nature? They will still continue to walk on the south side, because it is protected. In the winter, when the wind blows, you want any protection you can find.”
Also considered was the possibility of creating a one-way street, but was determined to be unfeasible as it would create more traffic at the Highway 3 and Highway 36 intersection, among other issues. Another solution proposed was a foot bridge across the the railway tracks and Highway 3, but was largely dismissed as it would require Alberta Transportation’s approval and involvement, as well as being considered prohibitively expensive. The intersection of Highway 3 and Highway 36 currently has no pedestrian crossing signs, and was never built with any anticipation of pedestrian traffic.
A vocal opponent of the project since its conception, Coun. Jack Brewin did not miss the opportunity to cast doubt on its efficacy.
“I’m not in favour of this sidewalk, because the major businesses out there have already stolen three quarters of the business from downtown Taber, and this would it make it much easier for people to use it, at our cost. As taxpayers, it’s not fair to ask them to pay for this. I am not in favour of a sidewalk.”
Strojwas raised objections over the need for a sidewalk to be extended to the Boston Pizza area if the land developer has not constructed sidewalks throughout the extensive parking lot area surrounding retail developments.
Ross-Giroux remained unconvinced by Strojwas’ arguments.
“I think it’s up to the developer to put sidewalks in there. But I think for us, we should definitely do 46th Avenue. We’re getting more and more traffic there all the time, it’s a very well used road.”
Following discussion, town council voted unanimously to make application for approval (Alberta Transportation) to proceed with the installation of two culverts under 46th Avenue to improve drainage issues in the area.
In a follow up motion, council voted 5-2 to direct administration to contact a remaining landowner (Harvard Developments) to determine their potential financial involvement in the proposed construction of a sidewalk. Coun.(s) Jack Brewin and Rick Popadynetz opposed the motion.