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Developer’s initial crosswalk safety commitment to West Hillhurst community falls short

Traffic safety commitments to make the intersection of 19 Street and 2 Avenue NW more pedestrian-friendly have fallen through, without including the community in the changes.

In a 2019 Vision document, prepared by CivicWorks, the 19+2 developer made commitments to install new safety infrastructure to the intersection at its own expense. It included a rectangular rapid flashing beacon (RRFB), a vehicular bulb out and traffic calming curb and a laddered crosswalk marking.

The commitments were made after listening to the pedestrian safety concerns of the community, despite a Transportation Impact Assessment (TIA) that was done for the site. That report concluded that the intersection required no improvements.

“The visioning document showed that the consultant and the developer have listened to community concerns about safety on that corner, and that these concerns are being addressed,” Janice Paskey, WHCA volunteer, said.

“I thought, ‘that’s fantastic, a flashing beacon crosswalk. People are going to see the kids crossing there because it’s very close to the elementary and high school.’”

The West Hillhurst community was left in the dark about the changes made to the prior commitments. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Last month, the West Hillhurst Community Association (WHCA) inquired about the timeline of the pedestrian safety improvements. They discovered the developer and the city made the decision that it didn’t meet the criteria for an RRFB.

“There was no promise that we were going to be consulted, but it was strange, given there was an engagement that consulted the community with a three-part pledge, which I felt great about,” Paskey said.

Community confusion

The WHCA Transportation Committee has requested information from the City of Calgary on why the decision was made to not follow through with the safety improvement commitments.

While they have not received answers to their questions from the City, another question has been raised.

“If you have a developer pledging to pay for these three things, why not take them up on it … maybe it exceeds the criteria, but why not? Why not try and be as safe as possible,” Paskey said.

“We thought of the commitment to the community and we’d just simply like that commitment to happen. I don’t think it’s any more complicated than that.”

While Paskey acknowledges that she is not a transportation engineer or a safety expert, the community assumes it would be safer to have all three elements – not just the curb bulb out to narrow the street.

“[We’re] just trying to do our best for the community to make sure you know that commitments are honoured and that we have the safest pedestrian infrastructure that we can at no cost, apparently, to the taxpayer,” Paskey said.

“It would be more safe for people in our community and obviously they thought so too because … they proposed these three ideas to us.”

The developers are ‘still meeting the commitment’

Original discussions with Eagle Crest Construction included a public open house with the community. It was an effort to be a good neighbour and make commitments to the community as part of the development project – one of which was looking at improving pedestrian safety.

“That commitment to improving the pedestrian safety originally was identified as a potential RRFB in the original design,” Michael Farrar, project architect and Formed Alliance Architecture Studio (FAAS) partner, said.

“As we went through the design process with the City of Calgary, that obviously translated into a different strategy, but still with the intent to improve pedestrian safety.” Farrar said.

Based on discussions with Bunt & Associates Transportation Planning and Engineering and the City, the net benefit to the community was an overall improvement to safety at the intersection, Farrar said.

The initial stages were conceptual and still part of the engagement. The full technical review was underway at the time and the RRFB was one of many systems that a developer could provide to increase pedestrian safety, Farrar said.

“It was a function of where we were in the design process, and the idea [was] describing an intent, versus specific a specific design solution,” Farrar said.

“The bulb-out is still at the developer’s expense, so that commitment was made, and still committed to.”

The curb bulb-out will be constructed after the building is completed.

Why the decision to not include RRFB

The City’s Transportation Department ultimately determines the appropriateness of improvements through standardized evaluation process.

The process considers factors such as pedestrian crossing volumes, demographics and needs, proximity of other traffic control devices, crossing distances, posted speed limits and traffic volumes.

Based on the guidelines set out by the Transportation Association of Canada’s (TAC) Pedestrian Crossing Control Guide, the location does not require the promised RRFB, the City said in a statement.

The City determined the intersection does not meet the requirements for the safety promises, apart from the curb bulb-out. Photo: KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

“RRFB’s are evaluated on site-specific criteria, and are typically implemented when they meet the warrant calculations as per the TAC Guidelines,” the City said.

“The City will continue to monitor and review this corridor as Calgary continues to grow to ensure that the appropriate infrastructure is installed based on the area conditions.”

Traffic monitoring strips were recently placed near the cross-walk area, which the City is now in the process of finalizing the results of the data.

The approved development permit aligns with the conclusions of the TIA, determining the only appropriate intersection treatment for the location is curb extensions, the City said.

In an effort to avoid miscommunications such as this in the future, the City is updating the Development MAP (DMAP) system, which shows a map of active land use and development applications in the city. It allows the public to view the plans submitted with development applications directly.

“Regarding future circulations, the City will endeavour to circulate amended plans to the Community Association, rather than just the initial submission,” the City’s statement said.

“While the City had not provided correspondence to the Community that an RRFB was to be installed at this location, it appears that there was a miscommunication as the RRFB was discussed by the Developer and shown on the initial DP plans prior to City review. Circulation of amended plans would have clarified that the RRFB was ultimately not included within the scope of this project.”