Brandon City Council voted on Monday to reduce the speed limit on a residential street in the Linden Lanes ward to 40 kilometres an hour.
Residents who live along Durum Drive and Marquis Drive have been concerned that increased traffic over recent years is putting area children at risk and say safety improvements must be made.
These concerns were brought to Coun. Shawn Berry (Linden Lanes) at an October ward meeting, then brought the matter to council and city administration for consideration.
As reported by the Sun last week, a traffic review written by city staff recommended against making changes, but Berry still introduced motions to reduce speed along Durum Drive to 40 km/h and to make Aberdeen Drive a one-way to reduce traffic coming into the neighbourhood.
Former Brandon West NDP MLA and city councillor Scott Smith, who lives in the neighbourhood, started off the traffic portion of the meeting by making a presentation on behalf of approximately 80 fellow concerned residents.
He outlined the impact on traffic the Bellafield and Brookwood developments have brought to the neighbourhood, not just from new residents but also from construction-related travel as crews and supplies are brought in.
"The crux of the issue comes from the expansion of the volume of traffic," Smith said. "When you look at the ingress and egress of the developments in Brookwood, there is only one way in, really. There's one on the other end at 40th [Street] and Richmond Avenue, but it's not utilized by the growing population in Brookwood. And then in Bellafield, there's one ingress/egress and it's off Maryland Avenue that goes into the entire development."
The result of this, Smith said, is that anyone going in or out of these developments has to go along Aberdeen Avenue, Marquis Drive and Durum Drive.
In the original plan for the neighbourhood, traffic was supposed to exit Bellafield along Maryland Avenue to 34th Street but that changed over the years as the development and the neighbourhood expanded.
When Smith built his house along Durum Drive approximately 24 years ago, he said it was just a gravel road in need of being finished. The traffic problems only started when developments sprung up around six or seven years ago.
Though this issue is just coming to a head at council this week and was a hot topic at an October ward meeting for Linden Lanes, Smith said he and his neighbours first reached out to Berry in fall 2020 to ask for help.
Another problem the neighbourhood was facing at one point was that on top of the heavy traffic flow, there was also heavy machinery heading to and from the developments along these small residential roads. Smith said that thankfully, city staff had managed to find another way for the machines to access the area off of Patricia Avenue.
"The residents are extremely happy with Coun. Berry's resolutions," he said. "It may not be the entire fix everybody would like to see, but after a lot of discussions, we know that limiting speeds makes the community a lot safer, and it not only does that, but it directs people onto another path on an arterial road that is a lot faster than slowing down through a residential area."
While the city's traffic report states that the road can physically handle the amount of traffic passing through it and the speed board didn't record too many speeders, Smith said the area being monitored was near a 90-degree turn, so people would have been slowing down anyway and might not have been a true reflection of what traffic is like at that location.
Concerned about the permanent nature of Berry's proposed changes, Coun. Bruce Luebke (South Centre) asked if Smith would be OK with a pilot project to see how they work out. Smith said it would go a long way in the absence of his ideal solution, which would see Maryland Avenue extended into the neighbourhood.
Luebke also said he knows of other problem streets in the city and wondered if seeing the effect of lowering the speed limit on Durum Drive might be beneficial so staff can see if it might be a useful tool in other locations.
During a presentation on the traffic report, the city's director of engineering services Mark Allard said traffic counts taken in both August and October identified approximately 150 vehicles travelling through the area every hour, or about three vehicles a minute. He said this was a fairly low volume for a residential street.
"Traffic volume and speed don't appear to be a concern based on the recorded data, albeit that it's a small set of data," Allard said. "We can look further to see if our set is representative of a greater period of time."
City administration's recommended means of addressing residents' concerns include installing a centre median along Durum Drive, introducing small traffic circles, adding one or more chicanes (slight curves) onto the street or installing all-way stops.
From a higher strategic level, the city could tackle traffic safety by incorporating a Vision Zero approach, which would set an aim of seeing zero traffic fatalities or injuries in a given year, adjusting the city's urban planning strategies or altering the city's infrastructure standards.
In response to Berry asking Allard how long it would take to implement the administration's proposed changes, the engineer said it would likely be spring for things like lane widths to be implemented.
After Coun. Jeff Parker (Riverview) and Coun. Shaun Cameron (University) asked about the makeup of traffic going through the neighbourhood, Berry was firm that much of it is motorists who don't live in the area.
"I sat there on a few occasions and watched traffic for half an hour; those cars don't live in the area," Berry said. "I know the area very well, I know the people in the area very well. Those people are using it to go from one area to another, cutting across Durum going to 26th Street or going to 18th Street ... I sat there one time in August from five to six o'clock and I couldn't believe the number of cars going continuously up and down that street. I knew the problem was bad, I didn't realize how bad.
"So you can put up every traffic count you want, you can use the book logic with numbers on streets all you want — sit down there and watch the traffic if you really want to know what's going on and you're going to get your eyes opened real quick."
The traffic is so bad, Berry said, that a friend of his moved off of Durum Drive out of a house he'd been in for at least 20 years because he could no longer take it.
Before changes are made to the direction of traffic on Aberdeen Drive, Coun. Barry Cullen (Victoria) said the city should conduct a traffic count to see how many motorists were indeed using it as a shortcut given the low traffic counts elsewhere in the area.
Mayor Rick Chrest expressed support for trying out a temporary and reversible measure like lowering the speed limit before altering the road itself, mentioning that residents have had a hard time adjusting to traffic circles let alone chicanes.
As council started to debate Berry's motions, he said this could be the city's chance to start implementing wider traffic changes going forward.
"I'd like to see this council be a little bit progressive and look a little bit into the future when we look at Vision Zero," he said. "Brandon is getting bigger, it's getting busy and it's getting too fast. Five years ago, you would never have convinced me to slow down motorists in a residential zone from 50 [km/h] and [take] them down to 40 or 30 [km/h]. I'm going to tell you right now, we need to start looking at it and we need to start looking at it everywhere and especially in the new developments as they come up."
After an amendment by Parker putting a one-year time limit on the pilot project to lower the speed on Durum Drive effective Jan. 1, 2022, council voted in favour of the motion with only Coun. Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine) voting against.
However, after multiple members of council expressed concern about changing Aberdeen Drive to a one-way and how it would affect people who live nearby, council voted unanimously to table that motion and instead commit to holding a public hearing on the matter.
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