County of Wetaskiwin council voted to move ahead with removing certain so-called “speed curves” on some gravel roads after a resident opposed the projects at the regular Public Works Committee meeting Sept. 11.
Leon Specht, a resident of Division 4, spoke to council directly about his concerns about the removal of a speed curve located on a gravel road in the Pipestone/Porto Bello area.
Director of Public Works Neil Powell stated in his report to council that these speed corners, many of which pose a liability issue as they are located on private land and were developed before World War II on a “handshake” basis, should also be removed because of sightline issues and their confusing layout. Powell stated the curves include traffic flow cutting across oncoming traffic, creating a safety hazard.
Powell stated the curves, about 20 located across the county, would be removed and traffic directed to nearby intersections.
Specht, presenting to council, said he spent many years working in the oil and gas industry, about eight of them as a safety consultant.
Specht, who lives near one of the curves in the Pipestone/Porto Bello area, stated the curves are not inherently unsafe, although some behviour on the curves may be unsafe. He said, according to the Traffic Safety Act, as long as the curves are signed properly, there should be no risk.
He said, looking at three such curves and speaking to residents who live nearby, there’s been only one collision in years, while there were three fatalities at four-way stops. ‘It begs the question, which are more dangerous, the four-way intersections or the curves?” Specht asked council.
Specht said he spoke to two lawyers who said the county’s liability on these curves is zero, unless gross negligence is involved.
Specht questioned the numbers which the Public Works department quoted for the projects. Public Works stated the curves could be removed for between $1,500 and $3,000 each.
Specht also stated he was concerned no public consultation was done by the county before the curve removal program started.
Powell responded that safety concerns for the curves are real; he stated the curves don’t meet sightline or design guidelines, “Not by a long shot.” Powell said he didn’t have that information at hand, but could bring it back at a future meeting.
Reeve Kathy Rooyakkers noted such a curve, which had a bad reputation for collisions, was removed from her division some time ago. “Everyone was unhappy but in the end it was for the best,” said Rooyakkers.
Councilor Terry Van de Kraats agreed, noting people will be angry short-term after the curves are removed, but will quickly adapt.
Councilor Josh Bishop, who represents Division 4, said he has received concerns from taxpayers about this and felt some public consultation should have been done before this project began as there are many people who don’t want the curves removed.
Councilor Dale Woitt said he agreed with Bishop and also stated traffic numbers on these gravel roads must be rather low.
Powell said the Public Works department did speak to affected landowners.
Specht said he spoke to a county resident near one of the curves who claims municipal staff said the provincial government was ordering the removal of the curves. Specht stated he could find no record of any government order about these speed curves.
Bishop made a motion, in essence, to delay these curve removals while the county investigates how the residents feel about it.
Rooyakkers pointed out consultation means talking to everyone, not just people in one division.
Councilor Lyle Seely stated he didn’t feel consultation was needed as Specht was the only person to speak up and removing the curves is the right thing to do.
Bishop’s motion was defeated by a vote of 4-3.