By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Seven months after the Town’s last open house on the possible shape of a future downtown Morinville, the Town is planning another event that indicates the preferred shape is likely to be round. Morinville’s Planning and Development Department will hold a public open house on the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study (FPS) Apr. 25. The event will run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre. A formal presentation on the project will take place at 7:15 p.m.
The purpose of the FPS is to develop a long-term plan for 100 Avenue that ensures traffic and pedestrian safety on the road, deals with long-term access management into properties off the highway, determines future road requirements and required right-of-ways to allow for growth.
The FPS deals with Highway 642 (100 Avenue) from Highway 2 to East Boundary Road, a patch of pavement that is a provincial highway under the jurisdiction of Alberta Transportation. The study is a partnership between the Town and the province and is looking to find some alternative to the standard FPS for a provincial highway that says development on the road needs a 10-metre setback, a situation Morinville’s Director of Planning and Development, Greg Hofmann, believes has scared away commercial investment in the past.
One aspect of the plan is looking at how traffic will move along Highway 642 as the community grows. Al-Terra Engineering, who have been working on the project, will be making a formal recommendation to the Town and province to use modern roundabouts as the community’s long-term traffic management system.
Consultant Project Manager Vicki Dodge said roundabouts are different in that they are about half the size of the traffic circles drivers would be familiar with on their commute to Edmonton. “Traffic circles tend to have a larger diameter right through the middle from curb to curb,” she said, adding those traffic circles are between 80 and 100 metres. “What is being proposed as a design for a roundabout in Morinville is about 39 [metres]. What they’ve discovered through their modelling and the analysis is they can, in fact, with the use of roundabouts, maintain the use of the existing right of ways.”
Dodge said some additional right of way would be necessary at intersections identified for improvement at some point down the road, 107 Street and 100 Avenue likely being the first roughly five years down the road. However, that right of way would be less than what would be required with conventional traffic light intersections. Dodge said a plan that would used signalled intersections would require turning lanes and stacking distance for cars needing to use the turning lane. That would mean a wider road. “To accommodate all of that with the intersection improvements with the conventional treatment we would have had to widen the road all the way along,” Dodge said, adding it would be essential to do so in order to maintain parking on both sides, something stakeholders have told the Town is essential in any such planning.
The standard traffic light intersection 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.
Hoffman said the use of roundabouts eliminates the need for a wider road. “You need that extra land if you want to maintain all those things. And parking on both sides of the street was almost seen as sacrosanct,” Hofmann said, adding the roundabout eliminates the need for the additional road width. “Everybody is turning the same direction in the roundabout so therefore you do not need the extra space down the middle for dual turning at the intersection.”
Governemnt Video On Roundabouts
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Intersection landowners likely to be affected
Though 107 could be upgraded in five years time, just when other 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 Dodge said is triggered by a number of factors.
Dodge said at the key intersections with the exception of 102 Street additional land right of way would be required. Lands that are currently vacant would be instructed as to what the new right of way requirements were before a development permit would be granted. However, existing landowners would enter into a negotiation process for the necessary land needed for the intersection improvement. “Wherever there is a structure, if the structure is within that area that is required it will have to go,” Dodge said. “When that happens, and we don’t know when that is going to happen necessarily, that building would have to be acquired. Every individual affected land owner will have an opportunity to negotiate with the road authority at the time.” Both Hofmann and Dodge said removal of buildings would not be the case with the 107 Street intersection, which is likely to be the first to be improved if roundabouts are the approved form of improvement. “It isn’t indicated that existing buildings would necessarily be affected,” Hofmann said, adding the sites on the south side and not the buildings would be impacted. “It is a matter of reworking ways to address the access into the properties, which is also included in the functional plan, too.”
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, Hofmann said the work is essential now.
“We will be forever in a situation of investment being scared away from simply not knowing,” Hofmann said of the prospect of continuing without an FPS. “We’ve had investment up and down the road walk away from the uncertainty.”
Dodge said beyond the economic side of the FPS, residents are already concerned with the volume of traffic on 100 Avenue, something that will only increase as the community and region grows over 10 to 20 years.
“This is town’s only east / west arterial road. It’s the only one we have,” Hofmann said. “It not only serves a highway function, but it serves the town’s arterial function. It moves people to and from destinations inside the town, not just through the town.”
Hofmann said safety, speed and many other considerations will go into the end FPS. “If we want to not have a functional plan that addresses these things, then we will need to accept this is the way the street will look until it starts to break down,” he said.
Dodge said doing the plan now gives Morinville a greater say in what the plan will look like than if the province were to initiate it at some point in the future when the road ceased to function due to greatly increased traffic levels. “We wouldn’t have as much a say in it as we have had as a community,” she said. “In terms of pushing for the kind of look and feel that we want in our downtown, with the wider sidewalk and pedestrian oriented shopping, it wouldn’t have been a concern for AT [Alberta Transporation]. If it meant taking away all the parking, so be it because their primary purpose is for this highway to function as a highway.”
Both Dodge and Hofmann said the working relationship between Alberta Transortation and the Town has been great throughout the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study process. They believe the end result will be more economic development on 100 Avenue.
Those interested in learning more about the entire project can attend the Apr. 25 open house or view the online documents at www.morinville.ca/fps. Doors open at 7 p.m. A formal presentation on the project will take place at 7:15 p.m.