The Town of Ponoka has made requests for speed limit changes, which are now headed to Alberta Transportation.
In total, council approved seven separate motions at its July 10 meeting — three of which speak to different speed limits on highways through Ponoka.
First: On Highway 2A south to remove the 80 km transition zone and have it at 60 km all the way to the town boundary;
Second: To have the speed set at 80 km on Highway 53 starting one kilometre west of town then to 60 km where it currently begins;
Third: To set a limit of 50 km on Highway 53 from 46 Street to a point 400 metres east of the town boundary.
It was late last year council charged administration to come back with ideas that could answer some of the concerns from residents. CAO Albert Flootman’s report was lengthy and detailed.
“There are two main issues — homeowners living adjacent to Highway 53 in the east part of Ponoka, and in the rural area of the town on Highway 53 west have expressed concerns about speed and traffic noise,” he explained.
“The previous council expressed concerns about the speed limits on the approaches into Ponoka,” he added.
One further motion approved will see administration request the RCMP do more enforcement on the engine retarder brake restriction within the town limits.
Flootman stressed that highways 2A and 53 are not residential, and that access and work on these two highways are controlled by Alberta Transportation. The department also is responsible for setting speed limits and posting them in official government documents.
That final statement becomes important in regards to Highway 53 east from 46 Street to the town boundary, as Flootman found out the 50 km limit was never made official by the province.
“This is not consistent with the Minister of Transportation approved speed limits,” he noted to council. “It appears that the original speed limit was 60.”
He added the present 70 km transition zone from 42 Street to the town boundary was made last fall following a talk between the town and Alberta Transportation.
Meanwhile, it seems the 50 km limit seemed to result from concerns over speed on the downhill grade coming into Ponoka as well as traffic at the intersection with 46 street.
It was noted in the report that there have been no significant traffic accidents or hikes in traffic volumes in the last five years to warrant a further road or signal improvements by Alberta Transportation.
Before council’s discussion on the issue, resident Karen Williams issued her concerns on speeding in that area during the public forum portion of the meeting.
“Having worked at the golf course for seven years, I find it very difficult to turn at 46 Street and I’m concerned about the safety of all the kids and others at the crosswalk despite the flashing lights,” she said.
“Why would we increase the speed and give drivers less response time especially when the sun reaches that one spot making it really hard to see.”
Coun. Teri Underhill did make a change to one of the original recommendations. It was proposed that Highway 53 from 46 Street to the east town boundary be set at 60 km, but Underhill moved it be at 50 km/h and increased the distance requested well past the town limits.
“When you’ve grown up in this town or drive daily on (Highway) 53 east, you see the amount of traffic and you see — regardless of where the crosswalks are — kids and residents crossing at 43, 44, 45 and 46 Street,” she stated, noting many incidents that have occurred in the area that weren’t reflected in the last five years.
In the end, Bonnett issued a reminder to both council and residents regarding the situation, stating that the minister has final approval on the requests.