By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
The number 13 is often considered unlucky, but it’s the expansion of 13 Street in Coaldale that has some residents up in arms over it.
According to Google Maps, The portion of 13 Street in question currently runs south from Highway 3 to 24 Avenue. Another road of the same name runs north from Range Road 201A and ends at 18 Avenue, and doesn’t connect to Highway 3. Yet another portion of the road continues south from around 30 Avenue, before coming to a dead end.
Running along the south side of 13 Street is R.I Baker middle school and the Hub, and nearby it is St. Joseph Catholic elementary school, Jennie Emery Elementary School and the Coaldale Sportsplex.
Currently, the south portions of 13th Street are separated by the Quads, or sport fields, and the town plans on linking these two sections of the road together.
However, some resident feel that this is not a good idea.
“”We feel that all the traffic from Cottonwood and south of Caldale will travel that way, past our residences and it’s going to increase even more. We feel that a lot of people from the east part of town, exiting town, will use that through-faire, increasing more traffic by the school,” said Tony Curtis, a resident of 24 Avenue.
“Already more people are using that route similarly, since they opened up the Cottonwood extension there. People have already been going through that way… so there’s a huge increase in traffic already, and that’s from residents that live on 30 Avenue.
“We feel there is better alternatives.”
According to the minutes of the July 10 Coaldale town council meeting, and of the July 18, Sunny South News article titled, Resident-controlled gate: Public Hearing discusses Seasons ASP amendment, council had passed a motion to extend 13 Street be extended from the intersection of 13 Street and 30 Avenue, to connect with 13 Street, north of the SMRID canal on the express condition the developer of the Seasons ASP area be willing to enter into a cost-share arrangement to the satisfaction of council, during a public hearing for Bylaw 731-P-06-17.
According to the minutes, the public hearing had been advertised in the Sunny South News in its June 27 and July 4 editions, with Season ASP landowners, all adjacent property owners including county residents and landowners in the 30 Avenue 1/4 section were sent notices of public hearing.
Additionally, the minutes had reported in March 2017, it was determined that it was possible to extend 13th street to 30 Avenue across the SMRID canal.
Curtis feels that the town did not do a good enough job of informing residents of the possible extension, as he hadn’t heard about it until he read the July 18 article in the Sunny South News.
“We were never informed by the town until we read it in Mr. Stan Ashbee’s (article) in the Sunny South News. Like a two sentence thing, that’s how the residents found out. So we could have been informed publicly a lot better.”
With the street being so close to schools and playground areas, Curtis is concerned that the increase in traffic the extension would bring would prove dangerous.
He said that passed on information on projected traffic flow models, in some scenarios he can expect up to 2,500 per cent of a traffic increase outside his home on 24 Avenue because of the extension.
He is concerned about the destruction of green space that construction and the road extension would cause. He is also worried abut the road being designated as an emergency route, and what would happen if Coaldale should ever have to evacuate while school is in session.
“Emergency management, in case of a drastic emergency in Coaldale, they intend to have 13th Street as an emergency exit road, which I feel is extremely worse, as again, they are going to funnel people through two school zones, and if there is an extreme emergency, (then) they’ll get people down 13th street and out of town,” said Curtis.
“I feel if an emergency were to happen during school hours, it would be extremely treacherous to every kid there. Kids are running out in a panic, parent are in a panic trying to get to their children, and they want to put more traffic down that area?”
Curtis would rather see upgrades done to 30 Avenue instead of the extension, noting that there are no walking paths on the narrow road and is need of repair.
“We feel the town needs to do first is fix those streets, and not destroy a green area, next to a soccer field, and increase traffic there.”
Curtis says that this will be an election issue, and it will be brought up at the political forum on Wednesday, Oct. 4.
Other Coaldale residents, however, are applauding the plan.
Ron Hameluck, a resident of Applewood Road, is one of the yay-sayers to the plan, and he believes the nay-sayers are blowing things out of proportion.
Applewood Road is part of The Seasons community, and it’s residents currently have to travel north on Range Road 201 to Highway 3 to access the business areas and downtown of Coaldale.
But with the bylaw passed, The Season will be connected to 31 Street, which connects to the southern-most portion of 13 Street.
Should the extension proceed, The Season’s residents will be able to travel north up 13 Street to the downtown core from 30 Street, in addition to access from both 17 Street and 20 Street.
Hameluck said that as residents of The Seasons already have access to the downtown area by the way of the latter two streets, the extension is not “as big a deal for The Seasons as what people are saying”.
Although the extension would serve to ultimately help connect those living on the east side of town to the rest of town, and providing easier access to those areas along with the quad for emergency services, which Hameluck said the extension was more for.
“With the ball field there, and the amount of kids that go back and forth, play the different sports at the quad, it’s always a good thing. If you have emergency services with medical or whatever, they can get there a lot quicker then what we currently have right now,” said Hameluck.
“From an emergency standpoint, 13 Street is the only Street in between 20th and Route 845, that actually you can turn right or left. So if there is a major emergency or catastrophe, it’s easier to get in and out of anywhere of that side of Coaldale.”
Hameluck also said that fears about 13 Street becoming a “speed haven” are also overblown, noting the school and playground zones, stop and yield signs already on the street reducing the speed of traffic.
“If there are people speeding through, that’s when the RCMP and the peace officers have to get involved. That’s not either here or there what we can do with this.”
With the population of Coaldale having grown by nearly 1,000 people to 8,153 between 2011 and 2016, and the annexation current waiting for approval from the province, the town is getting bigger. As the town gets bigger, Hameluck says that areas that were once quiet are going to get busier as the town moves to accommodate those increases.
“I know people are against it because they figured, 20-23 years ago when they built, that it’s not going to expand. So a lot of people are against the expansion, but only in so far that they think that it will never go,” said Hameluck. “It’s a sign of progress for the town itself in growing. It’s going to be inevitable that it does happen, that you do have to grow and you do have move on. Even in our area, in 20-30 years from now, it’s going to be different.
“I think a lot of the nay-sayers for having it closed is only because they don’t want Coaldale to expand, and I think they are against progress within the (town).”
The town had held a community meeting on the extension on Tuesday, Sept. 26. According to the project’s timeline, they will review feedback throughout October before preparing a detailed design plan.
They will them seek community feedback on that plan in February 2018, and adjust it accordingly before sending it out to tender in Spring 2018, when construction would also be scheduled to start.