Light at the End of the Intersection
The Fraser Community's Call for a Traffic Light Gets Results
Even before I was elected in 2017, I was hearing from a lot of residents about safety concerns at the intersection of 153 Avenue and 18 Street in the community of Fraser. I’ve seen the problem firsthand. I drive that way often and know the struggle of trying to get through or across from 18 Street to 153 Ave without feeling anxious about the fast-approaching oncoming traffic.
When the Anthony Henday connection was complete, drivers welcomed the quick access point for a faster commute, but residents in the area also became concerned about increased speeding along 153 Ave, making it even more challenging to safely navigate the intersection at 18 St.
The speed limit changes very quickly from 100 km/hr on the Henday to 60 km/hr on 153 Ave. Even with indicators to warn drivers of the speed limit change, there are still challenges getting drivers to slow down. The intersection is controlled only by stop signs along the northbound and southbound approaches of 18 St (well, one stop sign- the other one was hit by a vehicle and hasn’t yet been replaced).
Trying to turn off of 18 St onto 153 Ave is often like playing a game of chicken. It’s so unsafe, in fact, that some residents have taken to driving a far longer route just to avoid the intersection altogether. There have been numerous accidents, both reported and unreported, and a lot of near-misses. It is clear that what is needed is a traffic signal light at this intersection.
The Fraser Community League brought their concerns about the safety of this intersection forward when I met with the President in January of this year. I agreed that a signal light was needed and immediately discussed it with a senior official in the City’s Administration. The Fraser League worked with my office and spoke directly to staff in Administration over the next several months. While very patient and cooperative, residents and members of the Fraser League weren’t getting clear answers from the city. Neither was my office. The process was dragging on. I was being told that this intersection was on the priority list, but not high enough to warrant immediate action, given the low number of collisions logged in the city’s database.
So, the Fraser Community League Executive did what all good community organizers do- they put out a call to action and made the issue public. They asked community members to contact the City of Edmonton and my office to share their experiences as drivers and residents living in the area, witnessing firsthand the risks posed by not having a traffic signal at this intersection. It didn’t take long for calls and emails to come in with stories about accidents, near-misses, and the real fear that a tragic fatality is just a matter of time if nothing changes. Then they asked the media to get involved.
My office has now been informed that the design phase for the traffic signal at the intersection has begun, with construction planned for the end of 2018 (weather permitting).
As an interim measure until the traffic signal is installed, the Traffic Safety section will be adding reflective sleeves to the Stop Sign supports and replacing the current Stop Signs with larger signs to improve visibility. This work will be completed by the end of August.
While there was already work underway to complete and analyze an additional traffic study for this area, the seriousness and urgency of getting a traffic signal light installed was just not getting across. When the community came together, determined what they saw as a solution, and used their collective voice to push it forward, it was powerful. It became immediately clear that what the residents can provide is informed, lived experience.
The city can gather data on collisions, measure traffic volume, make assumptions about driving behaviour, and analyze information. But, they don’t see what the residents see. That perspective is so important. There is a real place for the voice of the community. Residents needs to be involved and listened to. I hope this is one example of many to come where we will see this kind of participation and engagement influence decision-making. I’ll be there to back the community and fight for them, every time.
UPDATE- June, 2019:
Although Administration accepted that a traffic signal for 18 Street and 153 Avenue needs to be considered urgent and high priority and planned construction of the lights for early spring this year, the City was unsuccessful in working with the Province to attain necessary permits required to construct signal infrastructure on Provincial right of way, which caused a delay. Administration then committed to putting up signage and other speed mitigation measures in the meantime. They have now revised the design to accommodate the signal on City lands. It’s now anticipated that the signal lights will be installed this summer, meaning that they will be operational this year, soon after construction is completed.
The current status of the construction is that all the engineering drawings and timing sheets have been completed for the intersection and the project has been tendered. From discussions with the engineer overseeing the project, a contractor has been selected and provided with the permits required to begin planning to initiate construction. Due to a variety of factors that can affect construction timelines (contractor schedules, weather, material procurement times, time for the utility provider to energize the signal, etc) it is difficult to provide an exact date that it will be completed. However, I was told that the lights would be up in July and operational in August. I have asked for consistent updates so that we can ensure there are no further delays. I’ve also been in contact with the developer who intents to temporarily block access to Meridian Street to ensure that this does not take place prior to the traffic light installation.