Sixth Avenue South is a major east-west artery for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians in the City of Lethbridge.
The city’s Transportation department completed a functional planning study to assess current traffic and safety conditions and develop a plan for the next 25-30 years, which was approved by city council on April 4.
Several short and long-term improvements were recommended to be made to the 6 Avenue South corridor between Scenic Drive South and Mayor Magrath Drive South.
Pedestrian safety has become an important issue with two fatalities on this roadway in the last 10 years.
The growing population of the city and the increasing desire to use alternate modes of transportation were also factors in the study.
Beginning in the spring of 2013, the department held three public engagement sessions, completed a traffic analysis, assessed cyclist and pedestrian needs, and completed cost estimates to develop the plan.
“Important research and community feedback has been gathered in the study which has led us to a solid strategy for this important roadway,” said Mayor Chris Spearman. “Moving forward, we have a good list of recommendations that council can consider as we look to improve 6 Avenue.”
One of the key findings of the study shows that based on projected future volumes, 6 Avenue South should not require additional lanes and other changes can be made to manage traffic flow and safety.
The short-term recommendations can be implemented within the current operating budget and capital improvement programs within five years, estimated to cost $2.9 million.
Short-term improvements include: improving roadway signage, pavement markings, sightlines and reviewing street lighting; improving pedestrian safety by modifying crossings; introducing left turn lanes at 5 Street South and Stafford Drive South to reduce congestion; providing an interim cycling route, or bike boulevard on Seventh Avenue South; and planting new trees.
“Mainly it’s all around improving pedestrian safety and reducing any vehicle accidents there,” said Darwin Juell, city transportation manager.
Curb extensions would also be added at various intersections on both sides of the road to shorten pedestrian crossing distance and make pedestrians more visible to vehicles, he explained.
“Because 6 Avenue doesn’t have room to put in a cycling corridor at this time, maybe in 20 years that will change, we thought 7 Avenue would be an excellent location. It’s already an assigned cycling corridor, but we haven’t done any other improvements other than put a sign up,” said Juell.
With the changes, the speed limit would be lowered to 30 kilometres per hour on 7 Avenue South, and traffic calming devices such as curb extensions, mini roundabouts at every other street, diagonal diverters at 9 Street and 18 Street South, and a median and pedestrian/bicycle flasher signal at 13 Street South are planned.
Juell anticipates some of the short-term improvements can begin right away.
The long-term recommendation (within 25 years) is to review the 7 Avenue South bike route to determine if a 6 Avenue South cycling facility is needed. If deemed necessary, introducing one-way protected bike lanes in the north and south boulevards of 6 Avenue South.
The cost, estimated to be approximately $3.8 million, would be subject to future Capital Improvement Plan approval.
Part of the Transportation department’s mandate is to develop and enhance multi-modal travel, said Juell, which was a concern echoed by the public right from the very first open house.
“(They said) don’t do it just for cars, don’t do it just for pedestrians, do it for cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles. To me, this is now the best example I can see of a multi-modal corridor.”
Juell said there would be lots of signage and education for the public about the changes.
For more information on this project and to view the Sixth Avenue South Functional Planning Study visit http://www.lethbridge.ca/6AvePlanningStudy.
Follow @MelissaVHerald on Twitter