Some residents along Highway 53 on Ponoka’s east side have complained about speeding vehicles and a lack of enforcement. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Highway 53 concerns being looked at

Speed zone change being contemplated, other issues will depend on who has jurisdiction

A specific stretch of Highway 53 within Ponoka continues to be the subject of complaints, although some seem to be misplaced.

There have been resident complaints from along the section of Highway 53 from the river crossing to the eastern edge of town. Those have been lodged with the town to go along with several concerns including speeding and noise.

Both issues have been brought forward to town council a number of times in the past, but the uncertainty over enforcement lies in the jurisdiction.

“Alberta Transportation is responsible for Highway 53 through the Town of Ponoka, which includes setting an appropriate speed limit. We consult with local municipalities and police as we explore possible options,” explained Wayne Wood, communications advisor with the department.

As for speed enforcement, the town can make requests or suggestions to the RCMP, but the police have their own list of priorities they follow based on a number of factors noted Ponoka’s communications manager Sandra Smith.

She added that on the noise front, as the roadway is a provincial highway, the town’s noise bylaw does apply. However, the town’s bylaw officer does not carry out any traffic-related enforcement as that is looked after by the RCMP.

That noise bylaw states that a ‘noise’ shall mean any sound which either annoys or disturbs persons, or which injures, endangers, or detracts from the comfort, repose, health, peace, or safety of persons within the boundary of the town. Regarding vehicles, it states no person shall it states no person shall drive a vehicle in town that causes noise.

In terms of changing the speed limit on that section of road, that is specifically the responsibility of Alberta Transportation — just as the province has jurisdiction over the right of way on any provincial highway.

“In this particular case, Alberta Transportation has presented two options to the town for reducing the speed limit — 60 kilometres per hour between 67 Street and the east corporate limit of Ponoka, or 60 kilometres per hour between 67 Street and 46 Street and 50 kilometres per hour between 46 Street and the east corporate limit.”

Wood noted the department is awaiting a reply from the town as to what option would be preferable.

“Once that happens, the department will consult with the local RCMP to get their input,” he stated.

“After that, a recommendation will then go through a ministerial process to have the speed limit legally changed.”

He added discussions about this potential change began back in March, when the province was approached by the town to take another look at the speed transition — going from 50 to 70 to 100 — that was put into place last year.

Wood noted the transition zone was initially installed, versus going from 50 to 100 that was previously in place, to provide a more gradual drop in speed for vehicles coming into town instead of the steep drop off which has the potential to cause more accidents.

Residents speak up at town council

Frustration from residents along that stretch of road is clear.

Resident Warren Hart, who lives along Highway 53 — and has been taking on the issue of speeding with council on Highway 53 for the last few months — wants to see speeding enforcement occur. He spoke once again to council June 12 during the public forum portion of the regular meeting.

“What are you doing about the enforcement of the speed limits in town?” asked Hart.

“My frustration is the lack of anything being done.”

Mayor Rick Bonnett said that town council is unable to get involved in RCMP operations.

“Thanks for nothing!” stated Hart.

Another resident along that portion of the road, Dale Lillemo, asked about the town’s noise bylaw. He feels that the town has some control over that ordinance as it is town created.

“It (the noise) has been an ongoing problem for years and years,” said Lillemo.

When Coun. Teri Underhill asked if Hart had any solutions he replied that he’s met with CAO Albert Flootman many times with his own suggestions, one of them being to implement photo radar.

Resident Bill Kuncio suggested that Highway 53 has been there for a long time and noise should not be a surprise.

“The people moved in under where the noise is, and now they complain,” said Kuncio.

That comment appeared to draw some ire from Hart who stood up and stared down at Kuncio.

For his part, Flootman says he’s met with Alberta Transportation twice and he is putting together a report for council to be presented to council soon. There were no outcomes from the exchange.

*This article was updated due to incorrect information regarding the noise bylaw. We apologize for the error.

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