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M.D. puts rubber to road for Transportation Master Plan

Posted on February 15, 2024 by Taber Times
TImes Photo by Trevor Busch ROAD REACTION: Connor Smith with Al-Terra Engineering (top right) meets and greets residents and stakeholders during an Open House on the Municipal District of Taber’s Transportation Master Plan at the Vauxhall and District Senior Citizen Centre on Jan. 31.

By Trevor Busch
Taber Times

With sights set on the creation of a Transportation Master Plan, the Municipal District of Taber has been seeking the input of area residents about locations of concern in the municipal road network and what they would like to see improved.

To that end, the M.D. hosted two open houses last month for the public, with the first held on Jan. 30 at the M.D.’s operations office near Barnwell, and a second on Jan. 31 at the Vauxhall and District Seniors Centre.

Brad Crossland, manager of planning group at Al-Terra Engineering which has been contracted to assist the M.D. with creating their Transportation Master Plan, talked about the purpose of the plan and its development in Vauxhall last month.

“So the goal of this study is essentially to develop a dynamic plan for the next five to 10 years for the transportation network within M.D.. We’re going to provide them with a set of tools that’s going to allow them to proactively deal with some of the recurrent road network issues such as maintenance, safety, and things like that, to essentially make the most efficient, safest transportation network that’s possible.”

“We started the project right around the beginning of November last year, and the expectation is that we’re going to have final deliverables over to them and do a council presentation at the end of August (2024),” said Crossland.

Information provided at the open house included a project vision, as well as a draft vision statement from the M.D. 

“Through 2035, the Municipal District of Taber will implement refined processes and procedures to enhance infrastructure and support the evolving needs of the community by continuing to provide a flexible, fiscally responsible and economically sustainable transportation network where commodities and agricultural equipment is are moved efficiently, and people can travel safely,” reads the vision statement.

Other information provided at the open house showed traffic volume statistics for major roadways throughout the M.D. current to 2022. Not surprisingly, the highest volume roads in the M.D. are Highway 3 and Highway 36. Some M.D. roads have significant traffic, but most are low volume. 

Crossland commented on the success of the previous open house held on Jan. 30, which saw a good cross section of residents, businesses and organizations.

“It actually went really well, we had a really good turnout, just shy of 50 people which is really good for something like this, for sure. In the info gathering stage, we’ve got lots of good feedback and a stakeholder meeting in the afternoon yesterday (Jan. 30) as well. A lot of the members, local business, business community, some of the irrigation districts representation, emergency services, school districts.” 

“And that’s essentially where we’re at right now is we’re in the info gathering stage. We’re working in the background on this project since November. But essentially all of the existing information that is available from the M.D. in terms of the existing road network and road classification programmes and things like that, we’ve got an existing model built and now we’re collecting real information that’s going to allow us to do the in-depth analysis on the network, and come up with some projections,” said Crossland.

“So maintenance, budgets, safety, all that stuff,” said Crossland. “We’re doing an assessment on the existing system and conditions, identifying areas where there might be 30 years of minor deficiencies or areas for improvement, and then providing engineered recommendations that can make those processes and systems.”

Areas the M.D. was seeking feedback on included industrial and agricultural truck traffic, and M.D. road standards involving municipal gravel and paved roads. Residents were encouraged to identify safety concerns.

Road development and maintenance is a major part of the M.D.’s annual budget, accounting for 40 per cent. Directing limited resources to high impact efforts is a primary goal of operations planning. Maintenance projects that are a priority for the M.D. include the Gravel Recovery Program and the Shoulder Pull Program.

“The M.D. is actually similar to a lot of other municipalities (in that it has) previously done rural road studies, which essentially give you a part of what a master plan gives you in the sense that they take an existing base snapshot of the old system,” said Crossland. “And they tell you what you’ve got currently, but that doesn’t help in terms of dealing with any future growth or changes from what’s expected. So most of the road studies previously looked at them in a 10-year horizon, and you’re trying to plan out 2019 from a 2009 assessment of the road network. And in the intervening years, if you get three or four industrial (businesses) that set up shop in an area that you didn’t expect, it totally throws off what your expectations are for a maintenance programme and safety. Things like a master plan kind of expand on that. So, get that existing data snapshot, but then the ultimate goal is to provide a set of tools so that any of that dynamic change that does happen, the M.D. is able to deal with that without having to go hire an external consultant again.”

The open house also posed a series of questions for residents and road users, such as “What is working for you now? What should we keep on doing?” followed by “What is not working for you? What should we prioritize more?”

“So we are looking for feedback in terms of areas of residence where residents may have a business. Normalized travel routes – where are you going in the course of the day? What is your normal route to get there? Do your routes change based on seasonality? Are you driving different places more often in the winter where you may have experienced something from a maintenance or safety perspective? Have you noticed an increase in heavy truck traffic from your residence recently? Are you planning any kind of business expansion in the near future that may change the amount of heavy trucks that are coming in and out of a particular area? So we’re essentially looking for information on any and all of those things that are not readily available from looking at historical data.”

The M.D. also currently has two online surveys, one for business and the other for residents, that can be completed by interested residents. 

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