Calgary councillor to file urgent motion to prevent future traffic ‘nightmares’

Calgary councillor to file urgent motion to prevent future traffic ‘nightmares’
WATCH: Some Calgary drivers reported being stuck in construction for up to two hours on Thursday, prompting an urgent motion to city council to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Jenna Freeman reports.

A Calgary councillor says the traffic “nightmare” he and several of his fellow community residents encountered on Thursday should never happen again, and he’s taking urgent action to try to ensure just that.

In a news release, Councillor Jeromy Farkas, who lives in the southwest community of Palliser, voiced his frustration at the traffic situation that came as a result of the closure of 14 Street and 90 Avenue on Thursday. The closure was in place as part of ongoing construction work along 14 Street S.W.

“14 Street and 90 Avenue should not have been closed with work still being performed on every other way in and out of that area of the city,” Farkas said.

“I’m incredibly disappointed that the closures weren’t better coordinated. I have been repeatedly asking for, and was promised, that this work would be synchronized.”

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READ MORE: 14 Street construction causing some Calgary businesses to close their doors

Farkas said Thursday’s closure and ensuing traffic chaos had residents “trapped in our homes,” which he said was “unacceptable.” His frustrations were echoed by some area residents, who said called the roadway a “traffic trap.”

“I think the traffic on the way back from work was horrendous and I think although people had warning and they knew it was coming, they were not prepared,” Gideon Shoham said.

“I think it could be much more effective if they added more lanes to 14 Street, which is really packed. It’s a $100-million disappointment.”

Calgary drivers navigate through road closures along 14 Street S.W.
Calgary drivers navigate through road closures along 14 Street S.W. Global News

Cameron Searle said he was coming home from work and saw an “unbelievable” line of traffic, which he estimated to be about a two-hour traffic jam, heading into his neighbourhood.

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“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “[I’m going to] just stay here, not leave. Or leave at the right time.”

In an emailed statement, the City of Calgary said its goal with Thursday’s construction work was to “minimize the overlap between the two projects” — those projects being the ring road and Southwest BRT work.

The city admitted there was an impact to the traffic flow as a result and said it has taken steps to alleviate those stresses for drivers.

“In response to the impact, the city stopped all non-essential work, adjusted lane closures, changed traffic signal timing and had CPS officers controlling traffic to clear queues,” said Ryan Murray, communications planner for the city’s transportation and infrastructure department.

“We continue to monitor the area for ongoing traffic flow needs throughout the weekend.”

Murray said that as of 7 p.m. Thursday, the closures and construction were limited “exclusively to finishing this weekend’s construction at 14 Street and 90 Avenue S.W.” He added the main intersection is set to reopen before rush hour on Tuesday morning.

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“Moving forward, we’ll continue working to improve the coordination of these projects carefully, as they are scheduled to open at the end of the year,” Murray said.

Farkas’ notice of motion

Farkas said he was preparing an “urgent notice of motion” to be presented to council “to prevent this issue from ever happening again.”

“As you know, there are only three ways in and out of this area. If one is to be completely closed, the others need to be fully functional,” Farkas said.

In an attempt to help people get in and out of their community, Farkas said his team worked through the day on Thursday to lift the lane closures on 24 Street, adjust light timings at Southland Drive and 14 Street and put up a temporary stop sign at Palliser Drive and Pump Hill Gate.

He added he’s asked the city to hit pause on the Southwest BRT construction until the ring road work is complete, to avoid two major construction projects overlapping.

Farkas said he’ll be asking council to ensure city staff will only proceed with closures at 14 Street and 90 Avenue if travel is fully open at both of the following locations:

  • 14 Street and Southland Drive
  • 24 Street and Anderson Road

Farkas’ motion would also be asking council to ensure the following:

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  • Properly advertised time and date of disruption
  • Properly advertised alternate routes
  • A cross-departmental check on work being done on alternate routes
  • Warning signs installed with sufficient notice for drivers to change directions
  • Traffic signal timing adjustments made to accommodate traffic
  • Police or transportation staff to direct traffic if necessary
  • Exploration of temporary lanes to alleviate congestion/allow movement of emergency response vehicles
  • Proper notification to Alberta Health Services and EMS staff
  • Proper notification to Calgary Fire
  • Proper notification to Calgary Police
  • Plan for emergency transportation into and out of the area

When asked about any affects to its operations, Calgary EMS spokesperson Adam Loria told Global News the city alerted them of the closure and possible delays, so they had time to plan around it.

“We just notify our operations team of the closure or the delay or the rerouting, and as well our dispatch system and they input the information [on] closures into our GPS and our automated system,” he said. “So if a 911 call does come into EMS in that area, we’re prepared and we know some other auxiliary access and egress routes.”