City takes first steps to reduce large number of traffic lights in Prince Albert

This set of traffic lights at Central Avenue and 11th Street East is one of five up for removal as Prince Albert city council moves to reduce the number of lights in the city. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Drivers could see a significant drop in the number of traffic lights on Central Avenue following a vote at Monday’s executive committee meeting.

Council approved a motion to remove traffic lights at the 11th Street, 13th Street and 14th Street intersections along Central Ave. The motion still needs final approval at a regular council meeting before becoming official.

Mayor Greg Dionne said the city needed either fewer traffic lights, or more technicians to look after them. He advocated for the first option.

“We just had a report that we’ve got so many traffic lights they (city administrators) want to hire another tech to take care of them, so it’s time we start removing lights that we don’t need,” Dionne said during the meeting.

The city’s Public Works Department recommended the removal of lights at two other intersections, one on First Avenue East and the other on First Avenue West.

Engineering Services Manager Jeff Da Silva said previous studies conducted as part of the 2017 Transportation Master Plan showed none of the five intersections saw enough vehicle or pedestrian traffic to justify a set of lights.

The city uses a Traffic Signal Warrant Point system to determine which streets need traffic lights. Lights are recommended if the intersection scores 100 points or more. The three intersections on Central Avenue have scores of two, five and five respectively. The intersections on First Avenue have scores of 59 for the East intersection and 75 for the West.

“They all fall well below the threshold that we use to determine if a traffic signal is warranted at an intersection,” Da Silva told council during a brief question and answer session. “We brought these forward as they represent the traffic signals that were the quickest to point out.”

Each set of traffic lights costs the city around $1,600 in annual maintenance, inspection, labour and power. Removing them will cost roughly $3,800 each.

Da Silva said the city should be able to salvage around $6,800 worth of parts to be kept in storage and used to fix other lights around the city.

“I think we’re being very proactive here,” Dionne said. “We’re moving ahead. We have a use for these (lights) and I think they should be removed.”

Not all city councillors were fully on board with the plan. Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp, who represents the downtown area, said the cost was high enough that the city should wait until budget time to consider it. In past debates, Lennox-Zepp has also suggested delaying the decision until they know how the opening of the new University of Saskatchewan campus will affect traffic.

Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick also expressed concerns with the decision. Ogrodnick supported the removal of all recommended lights expect for the one located at the First Avenue and 12th Street East intersection, which he said helped improve pedestrian safety in the area. Nearby buildings include John M. Cuelenaere Public Library, Prince Albert Baptist Church, YWCA Wesley and the Gabriel Dumont Institute.

“We have a long stretch of traffic without any stopping or slowing down of that traffic,” Ogrodnick said. “We’ve had concerns about the safety on 11th Street, where the new YWCA building was purchased and they were talking about a safety crossing there. Without stopping traffic a block away, that could, I think, pose maybe a little bit more of a risk there with traffic not slowing down at all.”

There are 62 intersections in Prince Albert where traffic lights are currently in operation. City administrators say this is “significantly more” than comparable cities like Moose Jaw, which has 32 lights.