A recently annexed highway in south Edmonton is a "high risk corridor" for public safety, according to a report that will go before city councillors this week.
The two-lane Highway 19 runs approximately 12 kilometres east-west, connecting Highway 60 near Devon to Highway 2 near Nisku and passing north of the airport. On January 1, Edmonton officially annexed parts of Leduc County and Beaumont, meaning the road is now under the purview of Edmonton police.
On Tuesday, the urban planning committee is set to discuss a report compiled by Edmonton police and the city's traffic safety section outlining the highway's policing costs. The document also lists actions that could be taken to make it safer, including the highway's expansion, automated enforcement and a speed limit reduction.
The report calls the highway a "dangerous roadway" that will "get even more dangerous" as traffic increases from the nearby airport, outlet mall and race track, which opened this spring.
"A significant number of collisions on Highway 19 are due to unsafe passing," it reads.
In 2018 on Highway 19, RCMP reported:
- 137 speeding violations
- 62 other moving traffic violations
- 40 non-moving traffic violations
- 19 impaired violations
There were 20 traffic collisions with reportable damage, 13 non-fatal injury collisions and 2 fatal collisions. The most recent fatal collision prior to last year was in 2015.
According to a 2018 collision summary from the city, Edmonton had 19 traffic fatalities.
Police estimate each fatal or serious collision costs the city somewhere between $12,000 and $16,000 in police resources, not including the cost of pulling officers from other parts of the city.
Coun. Scott McKeen said ahead of the meeting that while safety is paramount, the city must also consider best practices for police resources.
"They go through a lot of training and they are really skilled professionals," he said. "And I think we always have to look for ways to make sure that police are doing the jobs they are most suited to be doing and that we can take some of the more menial tasks off their hands and give that either to automation or to other staff."
When it fell under their jurisdiction, the RCMP's primary mandate was to patrol Highway 2 and leave Highway 19 with no formal patrol plan.
The city police plan includes proactive enforcement when resources are available, moving radar, and irregular commercial vehicle inspection days, as well as working with the city's traffic safety section on collaborative strategies.
Among those strategies is automated speed enforcement, speed surveys to identify patterns and driver feedback signs. No additional funding would be required for automated enforcement or speed surveys, but driver feedback signs cost approximately $16,000 and may require requests to private landowners.
Police believe the most effective approach to increase safety and reduce policing costs is twinning the full stretch of Highway 19.
That may be years away, however. The highway is currently part of a multi-year Alberta Transportation project split into East, Middle and West phases.
The East portion is expected to be completed this summer. Its improvements include expansion from two to six lanes, realignment of the Airport Perimeter Road and the instalment of traffic signals at the 42nd Street and 34th Street intersections.
The overall plan includes increasing the remaining highway into four lanes, though no timeline is included in a January 2019 FAQ.
The report also notes that "enforcement is challenging for EPS members" as there are no roadside turnouts and minimal room on the shoulders for safe traffic stops.
TSS and EPS plan to "ask the road design committee … to consider including road design enhancements for greater enforcement safety."