Can­di­dates skep­ti­cal about 75 Street widen­ing

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - KEith GErEiN — With files from Elise stolte

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

Larry WoNG/Post­media

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.

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