Drivers will have to keep their eyes peeled for changes coming to the streets of the City of Wetaskiwin, as a new speed reduction strategy is to be implemented in the city.
Continuing efforts to remain proactive in ensuring the safety of all road users within the city — pedestrians and drivers alike — has led council to approve speed zone changes to multiple areas across the city.
The decision came during councillors’ Sept. 25 meeting.
City administration has suggested all playground zones and combined school zones be reduced to 30 km/hr between 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., seven days a week.
The changes to zones and subsequent infrastructure will be implemented by the end of 2017, using funds from unspecified reserves for no more than $336,000.
“We’ve identified 20 playground and park areas,” said Sue Howard, director of engineering and development.
This decision aligns the City of Wetaskiwin with other nearby communities also moving in that direction, such as the City of Edmonton. Councillors want to keep consistency across the region to better ingrain slowing down in those areas, reducing confusion for drivers by eliminating multiple sets of zone and time rules.
“I do like the idea of changing everything to the consistent speeds and signs,” said Coun. June Boyda.
Listed for clarification in the bylaw is the Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation Guidelines definition, “Recreational facilities utilized primarily by children. This includes outdoor playgrounds with play equipment, sports fields, ball diamonds, tot lots and indoor or enclosed facilities such as skating rinks and swimming pools.”
The bylaw continues, “The above playground definition is broad enough to allow for the inclusion of empty neighbourhood fields where children may routinely congregate for play. Under the Traffic Safety Act, an area can be designated a playground zone by the introduction of a traffic control device, such as new signage. Therefore, Council has discretion to determine the criteria for establishing playground zones.”
Howard informed council youths aged 15 and under are thought to be the most vulnerable users of the road. “In addition to this, childrens’ injuries are often the most life threatening.”
In addition to approving the overall plan of recommendations made by city administration, council approved two amendments: extending the 30 km/hr zone for the Knights of Columbus ball diamonds. Traffic control devices will also be added mid-block on 44th Street, south of 52nd Avenue and east of Sacred Heart School.
Coun. Tyler Gandam questioned if it would be necessary for the city to look into adding flashing lights at the downtown traffic circle.
However, Howard did not feel the addition would be necessary. “Traffic circles are designed so they aren’t needed.”
“They highly recommend not to add extras … It decreases safety,” said city manager Dave Burgess.
Moving forward city administration will review and update any necessary bylaws affected by the speed reduction strategy; suspend speed enforcement in areas being transitioned from school zones to playground zones until new signage is in place, physical reviews are conducted and the transition is complete; add the completed new locations to the enforcement schedule; and complete the physical work while concurrently rolling out a communications plan to help motorists understand the changes.