Signage warning drivers of detours on 14 St SW are shown on Saturday, April 20, 2019. Major construction delays are causing headaches for Calgary drivers. Jim Wells/Postmedia
A construction “nightmare” impacting access in and out of a busy southwest Calgary neighbourhood has prompted the local councillor to take urgent action to reduce any further impact on commuters.
Just before the Easter long weekend, the City of Calgary closed a large stretch of 14th Street S.W. and part of 90th Avenue, causing traffic chaos for Palliser neighbourhood residents according to Calgary Coun. Jeremy Farkas, who also lives in the community.
He said all three entrances to the neighbourhood were impacted and some people were waiting hours when it should have only taken 10 to 15 minutes to exit the neighbourhood.
“Living in Palliser, I would even go so far as to call it a nightmare. It was more than just an inconvenience. It was actually an emergency situation,” said Farkas, whose biggest fear was how the traffic jams could impact first responders attending an emergency situation. “We can’t afford to let this happen again.”
That’s why the councillor is filing an urgent notice of motion to council to prevent similar sweeping construction projects that negatively impact communities in the future.
“No one is questioning the need for progress and moving ahead with construction projects. The real issue is how do we co-ordinate the work so that there isn’t a disruption and also so the safety of residents isn’t compromised,” he said.
He said his office received almost 950 emails in response to the closures, which is the most he has seen for any single issue.
Farkas is pushing to ensure there are properly advertised times and dates of disruption and alternate routes, warning signs installed with sufficient notice for drivers to change directions, traffic signal sign adjustments, police or transportation staff on hand to direct traffic if necessary, proper notification to Calgary’s fire, police, EMS and Alberta Health Services teams, and exploration of the use of temporary lanes for emergency vehicles.
He added that during the construction shutdowns, there was also city work to trim trees on 24th Street and 90th Avenue S.W., which resulted in further lane closures. Farkas included in his motion that there should be cross-departmental checks.
On Thursday, 14th Street S.W. and 90th Avenue were shut down to work on bus rapid transit lanes, with closures scheduled to lift on Tuesday.
However, Farkas and his team sprung into action the day of the closures to help residents stranded in the community. They worked with city officials to make necessary adjustments to reduce some of the traffic anxiety.
He said once the issue was identified, city staff were able to quickly respond. They lifted lane closures at 24th Street, adjusted the light timing on Southland Drive and 14th Street, added a temporary stop sign at Palmister Drive and Pump Hill Gate and expedited work on Anderson Road.
Farkas said the situation could have been easily avoided. To avoid overlapping closures, he said, he had previously advocated to pause work on southwest BRT construction until the southwest ring road was complete.
Jay Nelson, Palliser community association president, declined to comment on Farkas’ motion to council because he said the association is non-partisan.
He said the association received just one complaint via email.
“As residents we just need to be informed,” said Nelson. “If there’s large infrastructure projects, we have to expect disruptions,” adding that he trusts decisions made by the city’s traffic experts.
Farkas will bring the matter to council on April 29.
On Twitter: @alanna_smithh