Traffic safety open house yields to resident suggestions

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Tuesday night’s Traffic and Pedestrian Safety open house at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre drew less than 30 residents, but those residents had plenty of suggestions on what Morinville could do to improve safety on the streets and sidewalks around town.

The event was another phase in a Council ordered review of traffic and pedestrian safety included in the 2012 budget. Attendees had an opportunity to see where all crosswalks, stop signs, photo radar locations, and even collisions were situated in town, and to provide their input on what the Town could do to make the community safer for those on four wheels or two feet.

Motivations for attending the meeting were varied. Photo radar was a popular topic of discussion among the 28 who came out to voice their opinions.

Morinville resident Jim O’Brien, who spent some time last week putting up posters around town to further advertise the event, said he was a little disappointed with Tuesday night’s turnout, but understood the meeting with Notre Dame parents might have kept some interested parties away. “O’Brien, who has long opposed what he sees as an improper use of photo radar, said he and his group are not opposed to photo radar itself. “We would like to see more photo radar than we’ve got,” he said. “We’re only looking to have it all above board. For example, why do they even have to hide? Their job is to slow down traffic. In the old days the presence of a police car sure slowed down traffic whether the lights were flashing or not. These guys hide. Of course they are going to get people.”

Teacher Terry Maslyk also came to present his case on the town’s photo radar program, particularly the sensibility of placing photo radar operators at the east exit of town where people are leaving the community. Maslyk said having raised three children in Morinville he understands photo radar from a safety perspective, but questions placing an operator at the east end of town a short distance from the town line. “On a Saturday afternoon when there is so much traffic on the inside of town on the major arteries where speeding and the possibility of injury exists, to me it just turns from safety to revenue,” he said. “I’m just not sure of the purpose of safety at a place like that.”

Maslyk said he felt there are areas of town that deserve more attention than others with respect to photo radar, particularly Morinville’s school zones. He said the presence of a bylaw officer or RCMP member in those areas in the morning plays a strong roll in slowing traffic down. “It’s a visual right there, and even if it’s the photo radar people where there’s a sign and the school, and they’re sitting in between – then at least it’s a visual,” Maslyk said.

Although photo radar was a concern for several who attended Tuesday night, it was not the only thing on people’s minds.

Local businessman Guy Meunier came to the open house to express his concerns about the crossings near his Shell gas station on 100 Avenue and 107 Street. “A lot of people are coming into town way too fast,” Meunier said. “There’s a lot of danger to pedestrians getting hit. Continuously I hear the horns going off. Somebody’s stopped, somebody’s flying by. We look at it and we’re just frightened that somebody’s going to get hit. People are coming in off the highway from the west and they are not slowing down.” The businessman said with no sidewalk on the south side of 100 Avenue and youth attending the youth group on Friday nights near his business, he is concerned about pedestrian safety in his part of town. He said more needs to be done to monitor the area.

Another local business owner had similar concerns to Meunier. Gladys Kublik of Neighbors Vitamin Shop said she came to try and encourage the Town of Morinville to make 100 Avenue, west of 100 Street more like that of a small town. Part of that change would be to the décor to indicate to motorists they were driving through a downtown core, but another part would see better marked crosswalks on 100 Avenue. “Right now there are only two lines designating a crosswalk,” she said, noting the addition of horizontal lines between those two vertical lines would create a more clearly defined cross walk area. “We’ve had umpteen people say, ‘I just about got hit coming in here,’” Kublik said of customers who have tried to cross the road to visit her store. “Nobody has been, thank goodness.”

The business owner said part of the crossing problem lies in people parking close to the corner, a situation that requires pedestrians to peek out around a vehicle to see if it is safe to cross. “You have to get pretty much to the edge of the car before you can see around it,” she said.

By the end of the evening attendees had covered the display maps with a number of post-it notes, each carrying suggestions and comments on traffic safety. These comments included positive thoughts on positive ticketing, calls for lit crosswalks on 100 Avenue, and suggestions that tree branches obscuring stop signs need to be cut.

Morinville’s Chief Administrative Officer, Debbie Oyarzun said she was pleased with the amount of input the Town received at the open house. Comments on photo radar were largely site specific and the majority of comments and suggestions were about non photo radar matters. “I was surprised by the variety of thoughts and solutions that were brought forward,” she said.

While some of the suggestions could easily be implemented: trimming tree branches covering stop signs, marking corners so vehicles park further back from them, and painting wider crosswalks; those involving 100 Avenue (Highway 642) are a little more difficult to implement. Oyarzun reiterated earlier comments that tackling matters on 100 Avenue is a little more difficult for the Town of Morinville as the street is a provincial highway. However, she believes Tuesday night’s session will give the community come stronger ammunition to deal with Alberta Transportation. “Doing a public forum like this allows us to package that up and take it to the province,” she said. “It’s not piecemeal now. Here’s our package. Here’s our issues. Here’s our solutions. Help us address them. It’ll be a much better approach to deal with the province.”

Recommendations from the open house and continued public input will be made to Council this fall; however, the review process is intended to continue until the end of 2012. Anyone who was unable to attend Tuesday night’s meeting can e-mail their suggestions to traffic@morinville.ca.

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2 Comments

  1. Interesting comments, I’m sorry I couldn’t get out to the open house. Mr O’Brien hit it right on the head, a visible presence WILL deter traffic violations, NOT slinking behind fences, transformers and bushes. Mr. Maslyk had an interesting observation regarding the east end of town. Not many people know that the area around the sewage plant as you leave town is a designated “school zone” by the RCMP and therefore greater scrutiny is required in that area, it must just be a coincidence that most of the photo radar tickets are given out during the time when the majority of commuters are heading out of town to work (6 to 8 AM) and not during the times when the busses and kids are active on their way to school. I’m a little confused by the CAO’s comments regarding 100 Ave (Hwy 642). The town seems to be extremely concerned about this roadway when generating revenue from traffic violations but when it comes to financing safety concerns regarding pedestrians (painted crosswalks, signs and lights) all of a sudden the towns hands are tied because it is a “provincial highway”! Please, the turnip truck has come and gone and nobody got off it in Morinville! There is no happy medium with regard to balancing revenue generation and safety concerns. Does the town council sit down and say “OK, if two or three people get hit by cars annually, that is acceptable as long as we get at least $ 500,000 from photo radar per year”! The perception seems to be that this is what is being done! I would not mind paying another $100 per year in taxes to hire more peace officers to patrol our streets. What I do object to paying more taxes for is poor financial planning and control and then trying to subsidize it with revenue generated by photo radar and the like. Not a good way to do business or to create a viable town atmosphere where people wish to settle!

  2. Will, thank you for your comment. It is a good feeling to have someone else understand what we have been saying for the last two years with little or no response back from anyone. If you want to forward formal comments, the Town of Morinville has a website where you can submit your thoughts and comments on the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Issue. Please submit them.

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