(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)

(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)

Town of Ponoka explains reasons for walking trail extension

Ponoka resident Lonnie Sweet spoke in the public forum portion of town council’s regular meeting on Oct. 26, asking about the walking trail extension on 50 St.

The walking trail, along 50 St. and Highway 53, connects the pedestrian walking bridge, located across the the Battle River Medical Clinic, to the Ponoka Arena Complex.

Sweet asked if any kind of a traffic study was done on that area in regards to heavy truck traffic that would likely now be diverting to other parts of town, as the new road width on Highway 53 and 50 St. wouldn’t allow larger vehicles to pass.

“I’m just looking at the way the width has been restricted on that hill,” said Sweet. “I work in health and safety and I’m just a little concerned with traffic in the winter time and heavy truck traffic in other parts of town, trying to avoid that area.”

Chief Administrative Officer Sandra Lund stated administration would document Sweet’s concerns and present information back to him at a later time.

Others have also criticized the new walking trail extension on social media, mainly taking issue with the narrower traffic lanes, safety, and the assumed cost to taxpayers.

According to town communications manager Sandra Smith, the whole project was funded through government grants.

Smith stated that the project was approved by council during the 2021 budget deliberations and other discussions about the project were held during council committee meetings.

The 2021 capital budget includes a Trail Improvement Program budget of $355,000, which is entirely from provincial grant funding.

The trail extended is funded from this program, along with other trail improvement initiatives, including the engineering, design and planning for future trail expansions in Ponoka.

Smith says the town received both positive and negative feedback from residents — most of which was before the line painting on 50 St. was adjusted, which resulted in a wider lane on the west side of the roadway.

“The initial line painting had been based on survey measurements that were inconsistent with the project design and needed adjusting,” said Smith.

She added that the lines were repainted at no additional cost to the project, as the need to correct the line painting was caught during a quality control check.

The new walking trail extension is part of the town’s initiative to make Ponoka a more walkable community, which was a key recommendation in the town’s Recreation Master Plan, the Downtown Action Plan and the Transportation Master Plan.

“This new walking trail is part of our ongoing commitment to continue adding new trail connections to our existing river valley trail system,” said Smith.

Residents have also repeatedly identified improvements to parks, recreation facilities and Ponoka’s walking trails as top priorities in annual budget survey results, she says.

Smith also says the road narrowing was an intentional, traffic calming measure, intended to reduce traffic speeds and increase pedestrian and traffic safety along that stretch of roadway.

The design of the new trail extension – which included traffic and safety analysis – was developed in consultation with Alberta Transportation.

”The town has also completed several other road and sidewalk improvements at multiple locations in Ponoka this year as part of our annual Paving and Concrete Improvement Program,” said Smith.

“Every year the town invests hundreds of thousands of dollars in roadway improvements as part of our commitment to the ongoing maintenance and improvement of municipal roadways.”

Work that is being completed on the walking trail extension includes landscaping along the new trail along Highway 53 to the arena and new signage to make pedestrian crosswalks and the concrete curbing used to create the pedestrian walkway along the east side of the street.

Pedestrian crosswalk lights will be installed at a later date at 50 St. and Highway 53.

The town will also be planting flowers and greenery next spring in the planters along the new walkway.