Candidates skeptical about 75 Street widening
City planners have begun to study the need for widening 75 Street in Edmonton’s east end, a costly and controversial project that is drawing skepticism from candidates running for a council seat in Ward 8.
Adam Laughlin, the deputy city manager of infrastructure, said widening the street is not a foregone conclusion in the near future, but acknowledged the city is analyzing whether there is any urgency to moving the project forward.
“It’s part of our normal capital budget process where we identify, evaluate and prioritize capital improvements, so it would be compared against other capital improvements,” Laughlin said in an August interview about the traffic implications of the Valley Line LRT.
The city classifies 75 Street as the east leg of Edmonton’s inner ring road. However, motorists complain about delays at a rail crossing near 63 Avenue and the fact much of the street has just four lanes.
A trucking ban between 90 and 98 Avenues — where 75 Street passes through a predominantly residential area — is another source of friction. In addition, there are worries the yet-to-completed Valley Line LRT could exacerbate traffic headaches, which is part of the reason planners are now studying the need to add more lanes.
“If we widen roads, then we are just going to have more traffic,” said Ward 8 candidate Kirsten Goa, who opposes adding more lanes. The community organizer said the road is already unsafe to cross and increasing the width would further degrade its walkability.
Candidate James Kosowan said he would give “an emphatic no” to the prospect of widening 75 Street or removing the trucking ban.
Both Kosowan and Goa said they believe the city should instead look at expanding transit options, including Bus Rapid Transit, as a better approach to reducing traffic headaches.
Incumbent Ben Henderson said he supports widening 75 Street south of Whyte Avenue and potentially also south of 90 Avenue, but not north of 90 Avenue where an expansion would cause too much disruption to existing homes.
He said he doesn’t even want the city to do a planning study now, since the city’s resources are tied up in upgrading Yellowhead Trail for the foreseeable future.
“Disrupting the neighbourhood by doing the planning study for something that may never happen is not a good use of money at this juncture,” he said. “Ultimately, I think 50 Street makes more sense as the inner ring road.”
Like Kosowan, candidate Heather Workman said she doesn’t understand the need for widening the street, since billions were already spent on Anthony Henday Drive.
Candidate Rob Bernshaw said he would back the expansion, provided money is found in the budget and public safety considerations are met.
Candidate Eli Schrader said he would want to a traffic study conducted and transparent public engagement conducted to find out what residents think about the issue. @keithgerein
The city is analyzing whether it’s necessary to consider widening 75 Street, a street that is a flash point for frustrated motorists who complain about rail crossing delays and congestion.