Shovels in for important sod turning

There was a sod-turning ceremony for the improvement project at the Central Avenue North and Battleford Trail intersection, May 31. From left to right, Councillor George Bowditch, Councillor Pat Friesen, Mayor Denis Perrault, Swift Current MLA Everett Hindley, and Councillor Bruce Deg.

An improvement project at a major intersection in Swift Current will increase the safety situation for road users.

The City of Swift Current has received a grant of $100,000 from the Provincial Traffic Safety Fund for the improvement project at the Central Avenue North and Battleford Trail intersection.

A sod-turning ceremony with Swift Current MLA Everett Hindley and Mayor Denis Perrault took place at the site, May 31.

“Through this partnership, we will be able to enhance motorist safety at one of our city's key intersections by re-aligning the intersection to decrease the skew that currently exists,” Perrault said.

Hindley also noted that it is an important project for the community, because it is a busy intersection.

“You’ve got traffic coming off No. 4 Highway that slows to 80 and then eventually to 50 through here,” he said. “As you look at it from here, you can see it’s a bit of an odd layout. … I’m sure there’s been some accidents here and even more close calls. So this is important from a safety perspective and it’s important for that reason for the citizens of Swift Current.”

The City received a grant from the first round of allocations from the Provincial Traffic Safety Fund. A total of $498,732 was provided to 27 projects around the province. The grants range from $2,500 to $100,000. Swift Current was the only applicant that received the maximum amount in this round.

“The whole point of the program is to improve safety,” he said. “There are different parameters for these applications, but in the case of Swift Current the committee that adjudicates applications took a look at the City's application, they took a look at this particular intersection, and identified the need here.”

A portion of the proceeds from photo speed enforcement (PSE) in Moose Jaw, Regina and Saskatoon is used to fund these grants. 

“A portion of that, I think 25 per cent, goes to the general revenue fund, a portion of the funding is used for the operational cost of the photo radar locations, and the rest is split between those three municipalities, their own traffic safety initiatives and other communities around the province,” Hindley explained. “It’s a formula that changed. It has happened just this past January to allow other communities around Saskatchewan to benefit from that funding.”

According to Perrault the PSE committee’s decision to award this grant to Swift Current will allow the City to start this second phase of the intersection improvement project earlier than anticipated.

“We weren't actually looking at doing it until 2021, but getting these funds from the province helps accelerate this project and get it done a little bit sooner, and we’re finding it's a need,” he said. “We've seen record growth in our community over the last 10 years, which ultimately means more traffic, more traffic flow. That's definitely prioritized this project and we are forever grateful for SGI and the province for choosing us as a valid location for these funds.”

The City will contribute funding towards the project, but at the moment the additional amount that will be required must still be determined.

“We’ll have a better indication once we’ve gone through the budget process, and by tendering out we shouldn’t always tell what tender dollars we’re looking for,” he said. “We’re asking people to bid and so in order for them to bid appropriately we don’t share that number until afterwards. At present the City would expect to have definitely some contribution, but the $100,000 is a big part of it.”

The improvements during this phase of the project will focus on the realignment of the roadway on the west side of the intersection, and it will not include the installation of traffic lights.

“We’ve actually worked together with the ministry at other locations as well, and what we’ve learned is that although it seems busy for us, and it is busier today than it was 10 years ago, at present there is not a need for traffic lights,” Perrault said. “We believe that realigning of this intersection will help dramatically and we’ve already got a reduced speed, which also helped as well. So at the present time there is no long-term plan for us to put lights here.”

Tim Marcus, the City’s chief administrative officer, mentioned that the wait times for traffic at the intersection stop signs are still shorter than the required time to make traffic lights a necessity.

“The wait times are significantly below what would be needed for traffic lights,” he said. “That’s what determines whether you need lights at any intersection. How long somebody has to wait to clear the stop sign, and it’s way below what’s required here.”

The underground infrastructure for traffic lights will already be installed during this second phase improvement project. This will make it unnecessary to dig up the roadway when traffic lights are installed at some time in the future.

The goal is to start the improvement project this fall, but the intersection will remain in use during the construction period.

“There might be one lane shutdown for different periods, but for the most part the traffic will still be able to move through the intersection,” he said.

The roadway on the west side of Battleford Trail will be realigned to be more square with the eastern side of the same road. It will require a slight northwards movement of the road and also the relocation of a few utility poles.

“When you're at 90 degrees to the intersection, you have a much better view for traffic moving to your right and left,” Marcus said. “With the skew it makes it harder to see one way than the other, and right now the skew is a little beyond what is acceptable for an intersection. So it just makes sense to straighten the intersection out, because that in itself makes it way more safer.”

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