Highway 642 Open House draws public feedback on roundabouts

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Morinville Shell owner Cheri Meunier speaks about the potential impact of roundabouts on her business.

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – The idea of roundabouts in Morinville’s downtown core drew questions from some of the 50 residents and business owners who came out to hear the latest progress on the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study (FPS) Thursday night. The Town and province believe the project will create a long-term plan for 100 Avenue that ensures traffic and pedestrian safety while easing the issues that have stalled development in Morinville’s downtown core.

The FPS deals with provincial Highway 642 (100 Avenue) from Highway 2 to East Boundary Road, a stretch of road that is under the jurisdiction of Alberta Transportation. Both the Town and province are looking to find some alternative to the standard FPS for a provincial highway that says development on the road needs a 10-metre setback on each side of the road to meet the province’s highway standard of 50 metres. Currently, 100 Avenue is 23 metres wide, 30 metres in width with the current right of way. The additional 10-metre right of way requirement is a situation the Town says has driven away millions of dollars in potential commercial investment in the past.

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Click Here to view a short video of where roundabouts are proposed over the next 75 years.

Roundabouts recommended

Attendees were told Thursday night Al-Terra Engineering, who have been working on the project, are recommending the use of modern roundabouts as the community’s long-term traffic management system. Residents heard roundabouts are different from traffic circles in that they are about half the diameter. Rather than an 80 to 100-metre traffic circle, consultants are proposing a 39-metre roundabout, a traffic flow device the Town says will allow more traffic on the highway while maintaining parking on both sides of 100 Avenue.

Planners anticipate traffic along Highway 642 will double in the next 25 years and triple in the next 75 years, at which time it is anticipated Morinville’s population will be 32,000 residents.

A variety of concerns were expressed over the idea of roundabouts. Resident Linda Lions advocated for putting the plan before the Town’s Traffic Safety Committee and said crossing at a roundabout would not work for visually impaired pedestrians. Some concern was also expressed about transport trucks with oversized trailers. Other residents expressed their concerns about the safety and costs of roundabouts compared to conventionaltraffic lights. Engineers are not recommending standard traffic light intersections as traffic increases because they would require two lanes east and west, two lanes for parking, and an additional lane that would serve as a dual turning lane along the stretch of road. Such a plan would require approximately 23 additional feet of right of way, which would greatly impact businesses on the south side of 100 Avenue to the point of some buildings being torn down.

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The costs of building roundabouts versus conventional traffic signals and turning lanes are estimated to be the same. Where the major difference exists is in the amount of land required for one solution compared to the other. Based on 2012 dollars, it is estimated conventional lights and lanes would need $13.4 million in land acquisition. Roundabouts would require $6.9 million in land purchases.

obrien-webIntersection landowners affected

Though the use of proposed roundabouts will reduce right of way requirements on the open stretches, they will require additional land at the intersections to make the roundabouts large enough to accommodate transport trucks.

Just when proposed intersections at 104 Street, 102 Street, 100 Street, and Grandin Drive would be upgraded is not know. Those intersection improvements would be done when Alberta Transportation deems them warranted, something the Town said is triggered by a number of factors, including traffic flow. The first intersection being proposed for improvement, possibly within the next five years, is 107 Street.

Morinville Shell owner Cheri Meunier expressed her and her husband Guy’s concerns on how the proposed roundabout at their intersection would impact the business. “The removal of buildings might not be the case at this corner but there are certain consequences,” she said, adding the installation of a roundabout at the intersection would close the northwest entrance to their gas station. “It also cuts across the canopy at the north side of the store, rendering that pump island useless.” Additionally, fuel trucks as well as soft drink and grocery delivery trucks would have to turn on 107 Street and then east into the alley behind the business, there to back up to service the gas station. “Shell does not allow trucks to back up. It is a safety concern,” Meunier said. “In effect, this proposal would force the closure of our business, resulting in 23 residents being unemployed. I know part of this plan is to draw business to Morinville, but how many businesses will be lost in the process?”

Seen as a necessary plan

Although full build out on the intersection improvements identified in the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study is at some distant point down the road when Morinville’s population reaches 32,000 residents, the Town believes the work is essential now so that Morinville can get past the developmental uncertainties and road blocks that have left marketable commercial land undeveloped.

Morinville resident Jim O’Brien said he was pleased with what he heard at the Apr. 25 open house compared to the one held last fall. “Tonight’s presentation was a vast improvement over the first open house,” O’Brien said. “They seemed to be making more effort to answer the questions that were being asked. I was very pleased with it. I am a roundabout fan because I’ve lived where they operate. I think we are on the right track.” O’Brien questioned the timeline on the plan, suggesting the land should be acquired now. “If this is the way we are going to go, I say let’s not wait. Let’s set it up now and go for it while it’s still relatively inexpensive because costs are only going to get a lot higher in the next 25, 50, 75 years.”

Councillor Nicole Boutestein, who has sat on the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study Committee over the past several months, has come away with the conclusion the plan is greatly needed in Morinville. “I can’t stress how important I feel it is for the town,” Boutestein said. “It’s the only way that we will develop 100th Ave. If we approve it and the public likes it, it goes to Alberta Transportation and because we’ve worked with them [in developing the plan] it should go off without a hitch.”

Boutestein said she believes with the FPS approved, development along 100 Avenue will be much easier for developers, a situation that will allow Morinville to increase its commercial tax base.

Landrex President Troy Grant, a resident of Morinville, is also in favour of the proposal. “Going from the current mandated 50-metre road width to a 30-metre road width allows the parcels that are currently undeveloped to be hemmed into their lot space and utilize the land to the best advantage,” Grant said, adding he feels it will promote growth within the downtown region. “It’s going to take some of those current lots that are empty, that can’t be exploited, and turn them into profitable spaces where the downtown will flourish.”

Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce Vice President Simon Boersma also believes the plan benefits Morinville from an economic development perspective. “The 50 metres is a big thing for us,” he said. “We don’t want to see the small businesses fold up the sidewalks. Basically that’s what’s going to happen. We want surety for new members coming in. This will allow business growth in our community to happen, and it will allow us to have a downtown corridor where people can shop. It will retain business right here in town.”

Though he sees a benefit to the plan, he is also concerned for those businesses like Shell that will be affected. Boersma said the Chamber would be sitting down with the owner of the Shell to discuss the matter. “There was not one sure answer tonight that I heard,” Boersma said of solutions for affected business owners. “I think that is something that is still on the table. As they said, if a plan is in place at least it is a starting point. I think that is the most important thing to take away tonight. We want to make sure this plan goes through for 85 to 95 per cent of our business residents on 100th, but we want to make sure everything else fits in. That is sitting down with those members and making sure they are looked after in the best way possible.

The Highway 642 Functional Planning Study is being done in connection with the Town’s Coeur de Morinville Area Structure Plan. The latter project looks at the entire downtown core with an eye to mixing commercial and residential opportunities. That project will be brought before the public in a final open house at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre scheduled for May 16 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Above right: Morinville resident Jim O’Brien asks a few questions about the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study during the Apr. 25 open house.

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16 Comments

  1. In the U.S. they are putting these in and personally I think they are great.
    The plus’s are
    traffic moves faster at intersections

    you will never be broadsided at a intersection from someone jumping a stop sign

    conserves energy by vehicles not having to come to dead start every time

    never ever get a rolling stop fine

    middle of round about could be decorative some way

    I find I am more aware of intersection as I approach it

  2. Seems like a great plan for a small bedroom community but for a growing, thriving community that we hope Morinville will one day become, it is terrible! The intersection at 100 Ave and 100 St will be a nightmare! This is our main intersection and is extremely busy with pedestrian traffic. It is bad enough now that people are almost getting run over crossing on a green light! What will happen to them when all this free flowing traffic must stop for someone crossing the road? And it seems like there is more heavy truck traffic every day, don’t forget, 100 Ave is “Secondary Highway 642” and that means, potentially, even more truck traffic! As was mentioned, planners forecast double the traffic in the next 25 years and triple the traffic past that! I would bet that at least half that projected traffic will be commercial vehicles, large and small! The problem is that the current design of the roadways within town does not allow for expansion to accommodate left turn lanes etc. without considerable de-construction of current buildings! So, basically we must create a new traffic plan within these boundaries. Not going to be an easy fix!

  3. Will
    Big trucks navigate the circles with ease
    don’t need left or right turning lanes
    to me when I see these new circles it does not take any more land. All the intersection on main street are more then enough to accommodate the circles with out more land needed. The U.S. has been doing these upgrades for a few years and Morinville is modernizing Get with the times!!

  4. Note to Paul – having attended the open house last night, my understanding was that additional land would have to be purchased to install both options (roundabouts or traffic lights). It was stressed that less land would be required for the roundabouts, but that there was still an impact on some businesses and residents.

    • The additional land is needed at all intersections but 102 Street to accommodate transport truck traffic. This from the director of Planning and Development. The exception at 102 is because it is not a truck turning roundabout.

  5. I looked this up a while ago. Severe accidents that typically occur at intersections can be expected to decrease dramatically while minor accidents (rear-enders) including single car accidents (loss of control) can be expected to increase.
    Traffic Circles are hazardous to those who like to use excessive speed especially in the winter months.

  6. Note to Linda
    I am in business in Morinville for 35 years now and on a corner and hope they put one on my corner. It would have zero effect on anyone’s business . Don’t see that argument at all IMO

  7. To Admin

    You have to go to U.S. and see how small they are and the middle of the round about is not a sharp curb so large vehicles have more room.

  8. Tim

    Need proof not hearsay. My experience is they are much safer. In Flagstaff AZ they get lots of snow and they have many round a bouts and I don’t ever recall any accidents . If anything the circles slows everyone down more. The rear ender you read about were most likely someone at a stop sign being rear ended. IT if ws a circle it would not have happened. Just what I have seen and driven on a lot. Morinville is in the stone age still with our streets.

  9. Paul, Paul, Paul…

    If you live in Morinville, there is no reason you DIDN’T know about the open house – we all got notification in the mail!

    Added to that are the advance notices published in our local media and you have NO excuse for not knowing… Sorry ’bout that!

    Unfortunately – once again – 50 citizens from a town of almost 9,000 souls is a remarkably crummy turnout!

    Have a nice day…

  10. Paul: “Need proof not hearsay” and then you continue with hearsay??

    Some reading material for you:

    http://www.ite.org/traffic/documents/AHA99B02.pdf Table 9 sums it up.

    http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/east/2011/06/28/204259.htm

    There is no doubt that roundabouts lower and even eliminate fatal crashes that occur at intersections. But it is well recorded that minor accidents can increase, especially with pedestrians on bicycles in this area.

    I think its best summed up in the second reference, that in order to lower the minor accident rate, there needs to be improvement in drivers attitudes with regards to speeding and yielding. <<< which is something this Town needs to think about as all the photo radar in town hasn't impacted that issue enough.

  11. Paul – I’ll get with the times when you get with the program. Comparing a southern US city to Morinville with regards to weather patterns is a little much. Flagstaff has very little of the winter conditions that we do or for the length of time either! You should spend time in Morinville in the winter and see the conditions, especially with the town being so hesitant to send out the snow plows as that would cost money and the citizens of Morinville cannot stand too many more increases in taxes or else we’d all be moving to Flagstaff! The roads are brutal in the winter and requiring vehicles to turn in tight circles of a round a bout will create havoc for sure! I’m not against round a bouts, I’ve encountered many in my travels all over the world and they are an efficient way to move traffic, my concern is with the limited areas we have to put them, is it the best solution to aleviate Morinvilles future traffic problems?

  12. This is supposed to be a study at what Morinville should look like in 30 to 40 years? Can anybody predict what role the automobile may have in people’s lives 40 years from now? Will we even need the infrastructure to support automobile traffic? This plan assumes that we will have as many or more vehicles on our roadways. I can’t say that will be true, if we keep going in the direction we are currently headed. Can you? If we are seriously trying to see 40 years down the road, perhaps putting a plan in that is friendly to cyclist and pedestrian traffic would be more befitting.

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