Sylvan Lake councillors got an earful Monday night from residents who want the 781-11 intersection reopened to traffic in all directions.
Wendy Morris said the issue is not dead as councillors seem to believe.
“The barricades on 781 are going to kill somebody, I’m not going to play stupid … it’s an accident ready to happen,” she said, noting foggy and slippery times will play havoc with the cable and posts in the intersection this winter.
Morris also said plans for Memorial Trail aren’t going to solve the problem at the 781 and 11 corner noting people will be entering Highway 20 from Memorial Trail at the top of a hill, which is another concern.
Answering Morris’s concerns, Mayor Susan Samson said council is “very concerned” about the changes and understands the concern of citizens. She added that when changes were demanded by citizens a year ago, in the wake of three deaths, Alberta Transportation initially planned to close the intersection.
“It was the work of this council that a complete closure was changed to right-in, right-out and with that came money to build Memorial Trail.”
Since that time there hasn’t been one fatality at that intersection, Samson reminded the audience of 14 people.
After receiving a town-commissioned traffic impact study about Memorial Trail changes, Samson said they went back to the Minister of Transportation and were able to secure another $2.2 million for improvements to four intersections. Part of that money will be used to remove the cable and posts in the intersection and replace it with a monolithic curb. The westbound acceleration lane from 781 onto 11 will also be widened and lengthened.
Other changes will take place at Highway 20 and 11 making it similar to the Burnt Lake Trail intersection with defined turning lanes.
Samson also countered the argument that the intersection change led to demise of businesses in the downtown area. “That happened with the arrival of big box stores,” she said. “781 has not impacted downtown any more than when Highway 11 (through town) was downsized to Highway 11A then to Lakeshore Drive and around the park.”
Innisfail – Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle stated “it’s not my intention to create heat for Sylvan Lake councillors” but, she added, “my office is being inundated with emails and telephone calls on this issue.” She noted over 400 people attended her town hall meeting and she has over 2,500 signatures on petitions.
Towle also challenged an open letter to citizens posted on the town’s webpage (www.sylvanlake.ca) which indicated councillors weren’t invited to the meeting.
The meeting, she said, was held in her role as a provincial MLA. “As a member of the legislature I represent every single member of this riding regardless of political stripe. It was not a Wildrose event.”
However she added, the meeting referred to by the town as being “held in a local drinking establishment” was a Wildrose event, a post-election debrief session.
Towle said it’s her role as MLA to tell the minister this is not the right solution for residents. “I believe the minister’s hands are tied if the municipal council is not in favour.”
Samson thanked “the opposition Wildrose MLA” and said, “we are not your enemy”. She suggested holding “a meeting with all of us with a mediator so we can get comments out factually”.
“It’s important we work together on this subject,” added Councillor Sean McIntyre. “I’m looking forward to a meeting coming up where we can all discuss this and plan a way forward.”
Dale Mannix told councillors the mood of the meeting last week was one of anger. “If council feels this is a dead issue you’re very, very wrong,” he said.
Samson reiterated. “We’ve gone out and got what we feel is the best safe solution for residents and visitors.”
Betty Osmond, the town’s chief administrative officer, noted paving of Memorial Trail will be completed this fall with intersection improvements completed likely in early spring.
“The bottom line is a number of citizens feel the wrong decisions were made. Decisions are changed every year,” said Shari Britton. “We’re asking for your support to make this a safe intersection.”
Colleen Halwa asked Samson to state whether or not she supports residents lobbying for changes and would bring the issue forward to the Alberta government.
Samson responded they’ve already had discussions on behalf of the citizens of Sylvan Lake. “Science and engineering were behind it (the changes) and this council’s decision led us to back the experts.”