A portion of Jasper Avenue that was shut down to traffic as part of a pilot project aimed at increasing access for pedestrians has reopened to vehicles.
On Wednesday, the eastbound right-turn lane from Jasper Avenue onto 109 Street south was once again open to traffic.
It comes after the lane was closed to traffic in early July as part of the Experience Jasper Avenue Design Demonstration. Councillor Scott McKeen said the closure was “creating a lot of controversy.”
“We were hearing from motorists who were not happy with the installation along Jasper Avenue, and I think there was a failure to communicate, and I will accept some of the responsibility for that,” McKeen said.
Mayor Don Iveson said it was also causing delays for buses.
The goal of the Experience Jasper Avenue pilot project is to make the downtown avenue feel like a “main street” again. Sections of Jasper Avenue from 109 Street to 115 Street have been transformed into public space. The city’s plan is to make pedestrians more of a priority, while balancing the need of all other methods of transportation.
However, the right-turn lane closure led to traffic delays along Jasper and with more cars hitting the roads with kids heading back to school, the city said it was time to reopen the lane. The lane will allow for four to five cars to line up for the turn.
A smaller curb extension, marked with yellow bollards, will remain on the road in an effort to slow down vehicles.
“It’s rush hour — that’s when the pinch is,” McKeen said. “If we can do that right, the other 20 hours of the day, we can have a great urban street that we can all be really proud of.”
McKeen said this is exactly why the city does pilot projects, to give things a trial run and compare what worked and what didn’t before making any permanent decisions.
“It was an on-street trial after about a year-long public consultation on the design and it’s possible that the city could have just built that design without trialing it in the real world. So we’re getting some feedback and some real hard data now to prove out the design or find those pain points,” he said.
“We put these things in to see how they work, and by and large they’re working really well along Jasper Ave.,” Iveson added. “But this particular corner is going to require some continuing analysis. So I think it makes sense that we’ve tried it with it in, and now we’re going to try it out and see how it performs.”
McKeen said pedestrian safety remains the top priority with this redesign, and options for that corner could include allowing pedestrians an advanced walk light while the right-turners have a delayed green.
“We’re going to have to look at that a lot more,” McKeen said. “Ultimately, I want pedestrian safety but also a great urban main street – great tree canopy, wide sidewalks. I think we can do that while using lights to ensure that we have great traffic flow during the rush hours.”
The pilot project runs until October, weather permitting. The city wants to hear feedback from the public before construction starts in 2019.