A city committee has recommended that Edmonton city council move ahead with a plan to remove the westbound left-turn lane from 104 Avenue onto 109 Street.
“It’s a major intersection but the major flow of traffic through it is not this turn,” Mayor Don Iveson said Monday after the meeting.
“My position is that the intersection as a whole will perform better without that left-turn cycle having to be accommodated.”
The proposal was detailed in a report debated at the city’s executive committee on Monday morning.
City administration was asked earlier this year to report back on the university’s concerns around the impacts of the west LRT line, which is set to go down the middle of 104 Avenue. One of the university’s main sticking points was a loss of land along 104 Avenue.
To make way for trains, the approved plan will see 104 Avenue reduced from the current six lanes of traffic to four lanes – two lanes in each direction. The design will require a strip of land from MacEwan University.
The committee-endorsed proposal, which still requires city council approval, would prohibit vehicles from turning south onto 109 Street from 104 Avenue.
“As a way to mitigate overall impacts and seek a more balanced approach, administration recommends that the westbound left turn bay at 109 Street on 104 Avenue be removed to minimize roadway cross-section and reduce direct impact to the existing north boulevard along 104 Avenue,” the report reads.
City administration believes that once the LRT is up and running along 104 Avenue, less than 50 vehicles per hour would use the westbound left-turn lane during peak traffic times in the morning and evening.
The report suggests left turns can be made via 103 Avenue, 106 Avenue or Jasper Avenue.
“The downtown roadway network has sufficient roadway capacity to accommodate the re-routed traffic,” the report states.
In the report, administration suggests removing the turning lane “opens up space to shift the alignment of westbound through lanes southward, thereby reducing impact to the north boulevard and its southern sidewalk.”
“Removing the westbound left turn bay at 109 Street will open up right-of-way space for traffic lanes to be shifted south. Westbound left turn movement would no longer be permitted at 109 Street.”
While traffic in the area will be affected during construction, Iveson said the traffic change won’t be in place until the mid-2020s.
“This is not going to change overnight and people will have lots of warning around construction. We’re many, many years away from this thing actually being activated.”
On Sunday, Iveson said concerns about pedestrian safety for students and staff were raised by MacEwan University at a recent public hearing.
He said the city is still in the process of refining the design for the area, but admitted that sometimes removing left turn movements will make the intersection work better.
“I understand there will be concern from folks who rely on that turning movement today,” Iveson said Sunday. “But all of the traffic patterns will shift when the LRT comes in and it will give many people a better and faster choice that beats the traffic.
“But for those that have to continue to drive, my personal opinion is that our obsession as a city with maintaining all the turning movements actually slows down a lot of our intersections. So in select places, I think eliminating some left turns — which require people to go a little bit further to make certain movements — actually makes the whole system work better.
“Making a left turn in New York never happens. There’s no place you’re allowed to do it. Toronto, same thing. Big cities cannot preserve all the movements at all the key intersections and if you do, the whole intersection performs worse.”
Global News spoke with several people in the area on Sunday and views were mixed. Cameron Blake has lived downtown for 10 years and said he gets around mainly by vehicle.
“That’s pretty tough. Where are people supposed to turn left now? This is probably one of the most busy intersections in the city,” he said. “This is a high traffic area that, if you’re taking away a left turn I kind of think that’s fairly ridiculous.”
He’s not against LRT but said he feels as though Edmonton has viewed public transit as an afterthought.
“I’ve lived in pretty large metropolises in my life and from my experience living in these cities and overseas, the LRT and public transit were thought out first as opposed to, ‘Let’s build all the roads and then plunk some LRTs over top of it.'”
He also expressed concerns with what traffic might look like after a concert or hockey game at Rogers Place.
“Rogers Place gets built up, now you have events at the arena and this 104 (Avenue) gets pretty busy, like extremely busy. So taking away another lane and then totally disregarding the left-turn lane, I’m not too in favour of that to be honest.”
MacEwan business student Manas Vartak said anything the city can do to improve public transit in the area is a win for him.
“I think that will be a convenient option,” he said. “Because frequency of the bus is quite less here.
“From the student perspective I think this will be a great idea for Edmonton. We don’t pretty much care about the traffic.”
Reaction to the idea was also swift on social media on Sunday.
MacEwan University has reviewed the idea and is on board with the proposed design, according to the city report.
The Valley Line is a 27-kilometre route connecting Mill Woods in the southeast to Lewis Farms in west Edmonton. The project has been split into two stages – the south leg, which is currently under construction – and the west leg.
WATCH: A busy Edmonton intersection could see some major changes thanks to the future Valley Line LRT. The city wants to ban left turns — and as Albert Delitala explained on Sunday, the idea is getting some mixed reaction.
The below report was debated at city hall on Monday.