“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by,” wrote the American poet Robert Frost. “And that has made all the difference.”
Had Mr. Frost been driving, an intersection of diverging roads with frequent traffic might’ve made all the difference between getting home safely or having an accident. Such was the concern iterated by Pincher Creek resident Judy Lane at the May 25 town council meeting.
Ms. Lane’s attendance marked the third time she had gone before council with concerns about Bev McLachlin Drive, particularly as the road curves south at Dundas Street.
Although the town trimmed some tree branches to help improve visibility around the corner, Ms. Lane said drivers drifting into the opposite lane was a problem that remained unsolved. Instead, she said her original suggestion of a painted centre line was the better option “because a yellow line tells you things.”
“I truly believe that if you have a problem then you better have an idea of how to fix that problem, and I thought I did,” she continued. “I’m saddened that nothing has taken place. I’m upset that nothing has taken place, and I just don’t know what else to do to tell you that I am concerned about the safety of that corner.”
Coun. Mark Barber presented a motion to have a centre line painted on Bev McLachlin Drive from Main Street to Veteran’s Street by June 15. The motion also included painting a centre line by Community Hall on Canyon Drive and the section of Poplar Avenue at the top of the hill that turns sharply into Hyde Street.
“Our council has received numerous presentations regarding unsafe circumstances on these traffic arteries over many years. Our response has been very minimal,” Coun. Barber said.
Solving the issue, however, wasn’t as simple as grabbing a brush and cracking open a paint can.
While all members of council supported the motion’s intent to take action, the short time frame and lack of information made the majority of council request an amendment.
For starters, the Alberta Traffic Safety Act, said chief administrative officer Laurie Wilgosh, might dictate what kind of line is allowed to be painted.
“There are reasons, I believe, from the Alberta Traffic Act that our operations department follow — I believe yellow lines are usually used on highways and not on town streets,” she said.
“I think it’s a great idea, but I just don’t know if we can do it,” seconded Coun. Brian McGillivray.
Since the act requires an engineer’s certificate certifying the placement of the centre line is exactly centred for legal liabilities, Coun. McGillivray added, the process involves satellite technology and is a little more complicated than simply painting a line.
That process, said Coun. Wayne Elliot, is also expensive.
“Those highway lines are about $30 a foot,” he said. “That’s how much they used to charge the MD to paint the highways out here. That’s why it doesn’t get done every year.”
Painting a centre line, he added, might not even be the best solution.
“You’d be surprised how narrow half a road is going to look,” he said. “Bev McLachlin was not designed for this kind of traffic.”
Mayor Don Anderberg agreed, pointing out the existing centre line on the Bev McLachlin bridge is often disregarded by drivers.
“Quite honestly, I don’t normally follow that line,” he said. “I take the straight line from the corner to the bridge.”
Lines would probably remind people to stay in their lane, he added, but other options like signage or reduced speed limits should be considered.
Getting lost in bureaucracy, said Coun. Scott Korbett, shouldn’t prevent council from moving forward with a decision.
“I keep on hearing the underlying theme here is we can’t get there from here — and it drives me bananas,” he said. “How about somebody figure out a way to mitigate the risk, rather than [saying] ‘You can’t do that because Alberta Transport says you can’t do that.’ We should figure out a way.”
“I appreciate Judy’s concerns,” he continued, “and I can feel her frustration coming to council three times and we’re still spinning our wheels and really not getting anywhere, and then it gets pushed to the wayside because we get busy. Our citizens are asking us to mitigate some risk that they see. We should be doing that; we are charged with that.”
He concluded there was no reason council couldn’t make a decision at the June 2 committee of the whole meeting.
The sticking point, replied CAO Wilgosh, was giving administration enough time to put together information so the job could be done correctly.
“This is a very important item that should go to the operations department for their input because they have the background information on maintaining and keeping the safety of our streets,” she said.
Getting correct information would be helpful, added Mayor Anderberg,
“I believe we have professionals in our organization that we should be consulting with,” he said. “Let’s do that to move this ahead as fast as we can.”
Instead of having the lines painted by June 15, Coun. Barber accepted an amendment to have administration compile a report detailing how to mitigate traffic risks on Bev McLachlin Drive, Poplar Avenue and Canyon Drive. The report will be presented at the June 14 meeting.
Council unanimously approved the motion.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze