By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Citizens and residents of Coaldale are often represented, both by the Coaldale and District Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Coaldale, when it comes to matters within Lethbridge County and surrounding area. At a recent chamber meeting held June 10, Coaldale and District Chamber of Commerce President Everett Duerksen brought up the issue of traffic signal lights being installed at the intersection of Broxburn Park and Highway 3 and how it will affect business in Coaldale. “Do lights along the corridor between us and Lethbridge impact our businesses?” Duerksen asked chamber members.
Chamber member Leonard Fast asked Town of Coaldale Coun. Jack Van Rijn if the town made contact with Lethbridge County prior to the decision and/or if the town has an official position on the proposed traffic signal light installation?
At the last Town of Coaldale council meeting held June 8, Van Rijn said, council discussed the issue and town council is not in favour of having a traffic signal light installed.
“Just from a transportational point of view, we certainly understand the safety parameters the county obviously took into consideration before going this route. At the same time with that being said, we’re not sure if they looked at the safety aspects that it’s going to create for Secondary Highway 512, known as the Jail Road, and also the gravel road that runs parallel to Highway 3, just to the north,” said Van Rijn, during his response.
Van Rijn added there’s going to be people taking the Jail Road instead of taking Highway 3 and the same with the gravel road to try and avoid the traffic light.
“From a transportational perspective, I spoke with one of the owners of H & R Transport and they are in the process of putting together some information for us, as far as who to contact regarding their opinion on the whole idea of having a traffic light and how it’s going to slow down the mode of transportation,” said Van Rijn, such as semi trucks and trailers.
Other points brought up at the meeting included whether or not there is going to be a speed zone change along with the traffic signal light, if the traffic signal light will be motion-operated during evening hours and many other questions Coaldale council has in regards to the announcement of the traffic signal light installation.
“As a member of council, I’m disappointed in the fact the county didn’t come to speak with the town about this light going in. We didn’t find out about it at all. In fact, Coun. Bill Chapman found out about it at a Highway 3 Committee Meeting and I think that’s quite unfortunate, since we’re such close neighbours and no one picked up the phone to say we’re working on this idea, so we’d like to have your input,” noted Van Rijn.
Town of Coaldale Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Kalen Hastings, also in attendance at the meeting, said town administration has been instructed by council to send a letter to Alberta Transportation. “First and foremost, outlining our concerns but secondary, to put the process on pause, so more information gathering can take place. So, we can look at the implications of a traffic light, not just for that intersection but some of the ripple effects caused by a traffic light at that intersection, including the roads next to it,” said Hastings.
Hastings said if the town was asked about concerns during the consultation process by the county, the concerns could have been brought up and discussed prior to any decisions being made and the lights going out to tender.
“The only way to have these questions answered in such a way is to put the project on a bit of a pause button, so we can get these answers before the next steps are taken. The last item is to lobby the provincial government to contribute infrastructure dollars on a better long-term solution than traffic lights including an overpass or service roads. I understand that’s something the county would certainly agree with us on that traffic lights aren’t the ideal. An overpass, that is the ideal, but it’s more expensive — work with Alberta Transportation on securing those funds,” added the CAO.
Van Rijn said there was a study completed recently with an open house held at the town’s Community Centre and there was a plan with several traffic lights between Coaldale and Lethbridge proposed — upwards to three traffic lights. “We met as council, with the minister of transportation, and his local representative out of Lethbridge, and I asked the minister several times, are we going to get a traffic light between Coaldale and Lethbridge or traffic lights? And they kept trying to side-step the question and I kept at them and they finally said there would be a traffic light coming in, if required. That’s all they would say. Further to the one going in at Broxburn, there’s a lot of media hype with all the unfortunate incidents happening at the Coalhurst intersection and the Nobleford intersection — why don’t they get the traffic light and we have one going at Broxburn? The answer to that is Alberta Transportation would not fund the traffic light that is going in at Broxburn,” noted Van Rijn, adding Coaldale council’s understanding is 100 per cent of the costs secured for the traffic light at Broxburn is being paid for by Lethbridge County. Van Rijn said he believes that’s the difference between why Coalhurst is not getting a traffic light and Nobleford’s getting a traffic round-a-bout.
Fast also asked Martin Ebel, Lethbridge County economic development officer, why the county wants to put a traffic light at the Broxburn location?
Primarily, Ebel said, the issue is safety from the county’s perspective. “We’ve got the Broxburn Business Park, we’ve got the Perlich Auction Mart, we’ve got Broxburn Vegetables and Cafe and now with Western Tractor in particular, being that at Broxburn you have heavy equipment on semis moving out onto the highway. If they’re turning right from Broxburn onto Highway 3, it’s still a pretty big issue but not quite as dangerous. If you’re turning left there, that’s potentially where the problems are. That’s the number one motivation for the county,” said Ebel.
Ebel also pointed out he doesn’t know if the county is picking up 100 per cent of the cost, in response to Van Rijn’s statement. “It would be more than half,” he added.