Editorial: 100 Avenue plan about more than roundabouts

In the midst of the Great Flood of 2013 that threatened to submerge South Glens last week there was an interesting story that bobbed its way to the surface: Back in Morinville’s earlier days it was common for the downtown to flood, a scientific marvel caused by melting snow and rain that lifted the wooden sidewalks and gave Morinville youth an opportunity to paddle those sidewalks up and down the street.

Flash flood forward a half-century and no kid in their right mind would dare be in the middle of 100 Avenue. The volume of traffic, impatience of drivers not really wanting to stop for crossing pedestrians, and the pedal-to-the-metal driving habits of many passing through town makes 100 Avenue a treacherous patch of road to navigate.

Over the past century 100 Avenue has gone from a dirt road with wooden sidewalks to a provincial highway with concrete sidewalks. The four-legged horses have been replaced with four-wheel drive pickups, commercial vehicles and the odd moped. Things have changed.

Looking down the road tells us things will continue to change. The community will grow. Traffic will increase. Morinville will become a city. What will likely not change is that 100 Avenue will be the only (or certainly the major) east-to-west arterial road through the community. How then to handle traffic on that road when the population hits 10,000, 20,000, 30,000? How then to handle increased traffic and yet allow increased economic development opportunities for the downtown core that mix commercial shopping and dining opportunities with additional housing.

That is the purpose of the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study. As much as we locals may call it downtown, Main Street, 100 Avenue, or that road where people drive too fast; the fact remains it is known to the province as Highway 642.

Because it is a provincial highway, 100 Avenue falls under the development rules established for provincial highways. Simply put, if you have a million or two to invest in a business venture, don’t build here because you can’t build here. Buy a piece of vacant land on 100 Avenue today and you will need to build your building 10 metres off the road. That is roughly the length of a school bus. It just does not leave a lot of room for the building, certainly not enough to make it economically viable for anything beyond a hotdog cart. In fact, using current provincial rules for the road, none of the existing businesses on 100 Avenue could be built as they are now.

Alberta Transportation is working with the Town on the functional planning study that could allow that literal setback to be less of a figurative setback to those who would like to invest in the community. Few seem to disagree economic development is essential to the burdened wallets of residential ratepayers. Thursday night’s open house on the functional planning study certainly demonstrated that.

The experts tell us roundabouts – not traffic circles – are the answer because conventional traffic lights, in the long run, will mean the eradication of downtown parking and the elimination of one sidewalk. Businesses affected by proposed roundabouts most certainly have a say in matters that could impact their livelihoods and those of the people they employ. Other issues about how tough roundabouts will be to figure out or how they are inferior to traffic lights are dim by comparison.

Whatever the ultimate answer is to balance safe traffic and pedestrian flow with the healthy and steady flow of money through downtown businesses and thought the Town’s tax coffers, we need to spend a little less time fighting change for the sake of fighting change and start spending a little more time changing the fight so we at least have some common ground on which to operate. If we do otherwise we will find Alberta Transportation making the decisions for us at some point down the road, long after all of the businesses have gone on down that road where economic development is truly a community priority.


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  1. Just a bad idea to install traffic circles. in Sidney BC they installed traffic circles and now they have grid lock and many accidents ,, Traffic Lights are way better ,, The Govermnent is trying to cut costs and services to our area now they are trying to fool use with some sort of plan to save money on our backs ,, what about the new overpass ,, bet we won’t live long enough to see that promise .

  2. I believe that when the town becomes a city the responsibility for the portion of 642 that is with in the town/city will transfer to Morinville, along with any costs to maintain etc.

    Unfortunately, I did not make the open house on the subject. Did anyone hear if after that transfer, we would be able to change the setback requirements?

    If so, then we could ask for that transfer to happen sooner than later.

  3. It is the tone and feel of the community we need to consider.
    Do we want our main street to be a series of traffic lights like St. Albert? Or do we want a slowed down, calmed traffic with a look and feel of a community with a unique main street.
    This is more about if our town will look and feel different then the rest of the bedroom communities.
    This will be a destination for a cultural experience not a race through town and a photo radar ticket in two weeks.
    Think about what you want Morinville main street to look like the usual or something different. Clearly chasing our seniors across 6 lanes of traffic is not it!
    The destiny and tone of our community as something different the usual rests in the hands of council, please give them support.
    Kudos to the planners and the other professionals that the town hired, you delivered a diamond for us!

  4. I, like Joe G., was unable to attend the open house although I wish I had been able.

    I dislike the idea of a traffic circle for safety reasons, myself. I find with a regular intersection and lights, it is easier to see pedestrian traffic of which we have plenty. Given that the circle would find Sobeys, a wonderful flower shop, a bank and a bar as it’s neighbors, I believe that foot traffic will be heavy in the area. It is now, at times.

    To be honest, I don’t know what the right answers is. I will give the town and the ministry of transportation credit for looking into it and researching this and getting feedback from the public.

    I look forward to seeing what happens and to the growth of the town. Especially when it becomes a City.

  5. I have seen traffic circles in other provinces, as well as the two on St Albert Trail/Grout Rd, and they can work quite well, if you have the room for them. I can’t help but wonder how the tractor trailers that go ripping through town will fare…Will they wear a groove or destroy the curb as they try and get through? Should they be re-routed?

    Should be interesting.

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