Column: Right or Wrong…the Decision’s Done

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by Calli Stromner

Last week’s announcement by Transportation Minister Ric McIver and Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Maureen Kubinec regarding the installation of traffic lights at Cardiff Corner stirred up a lot of mixed emotions from Morinville residents. Many breathed a collective sigh of relief that something, anything was going to be done to address the dangerous condition that exists at that intersection. From the Wildrose Meet and Greet event and local coffee shops to social media circles and comments on the Morinville News website, the same two questions keep popping up: Why doesn’t the province simply move the deceleration lane over to the east 50 metres and why didn’t the province consult with the community on this issue?

First off, let’s define what the “dangerous condition” is – motorists attempting to make a left-hand turn onto southbound Highway 2 from Cardiff Road cannot see any oncoming northbound traffic when there are vehicles in the deceleration lane which moves highway traffic onto Cardiff Road. In many instances, motorists attempting to make a right-hand turn onto northbound Highway 2 have similar visibility issues.

According to both Alberta Transportation and Morinville Town Council, the Province has been looking at several options to make the intersection safer after the original $42-million overpass project was stalled by the failure to procure a piece of land needed to construct a roundabout at Cardiff Road and 100 Street (directly across from the South Glens community). The province does own the land adjacent to the existing deceleration lane on the southeast corner of the Cardiff Corner intersection.

Alberta Transportation has said that the traffic light option was the best possible solution out of five envisioned by their engineers. Common sense would suggest that traffic lights would take less time and money to design and install than any road construction project. If safety truly is the driving factor behind the decision to install lights, then putting a solution in place as fast as possible is likely the Number One objective. No project figures for a new deceleration lane have been made public nor do we know if that was one of the five options considered, but if Sturgeon County’s Cardiff Road project is any indication of cost, it is reasonable to estimate that $10 million will build six kilometres of flat, paved roadway.

Alberta Transportation projects that collisions at this location will decrease by 44 per cent from the eight that occur there every year. To put that into context, of the 6.5 million vehicles that use this intersection every year (18,000 vehicles multiplied by 365 days), the Province is spending $2 million to prevent three collisions per year. In the bigger picture because of the severity of the collisions that occur there (three fatalities since 2005), a couple million dollars is a bargain if it saves lives.

On the matter of lack of public consultation, Alberta Transportation relies heavily on the input from local municipal officials (both elected and employed) as well as the area MLA and a handful of other stakeholders, such as highway maintenance crews, first responders, etc. One could posit that in order to achieve the fastest possible outcome of saving lives, the Province consulted with as many agencies as necessary without compromising their goal. Politicians at both the municipal and provincial level were elected by voters who believed they understood the community issues better than anyone else and could effectively represent their needs and interests. It’s called representative democracy and it’s what all levels of Canadian Government are founded on.

Only time will tell if the decision to install traffic lights at Cardiff Corner was a sound one, but it is safe to say that many fingers will be pointed at Council and MLA Kubinec if it wasn’t.

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