City will spend $90,000 to change 15th St. East median

The City of Prince Albert will spend an additional $90,000 to create a break in the median built last month in front of Dr. Java's. Herald file photo.

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Despite warnings from staff that the decision would make the street more dangerous, council voted in favour of spending $90,000 to give businesses along 15 Street increased access from both lanes of traffic.

The newly completed median will have an access cut into it to allow traffic to drive into Dr. Java’s, and other nearby businesses from the north side of the street.

It was not a moved endorsed by Public Works or by two members of council.

“It’s going to be a very, very dangerous intersection, especially once we get the lines in,” said Mayor Greg Dionne, adding that the traffic will speed up once the lines are painted and that will increase the likelihood of collisions.

He and Councilor Tara Lennox-Zepp both opposed the motion to create the gap in the median while all other councilors supported, despite some misgivings.

“We created this problem by putting lights in at Fourth Avenue against the recommendation of our director,” said Councilor Dennis Ogrodnick. “We are to blame. It’s going to be dangerous and the Director has told us that. But we’ve got to get it right.”

The Public Work’s agenda item specified that what council is proposing to do does not follow Transportation Association of Canada guidelines and will mean more potential conflict points for traffic.

Representatives from multiple businesses that say their revenues have fallen since the road was changed in August were at the meeting and had written letters.

Chad and Brandy Mogg spoke for the third time since first finding the access reduced to Dr. Java’s and took issue with a previous comment by Dionne that the City should monitor the stretch of road for six months before making more changes.

“We have continued to see the same decrease in business,” said Brandy Mogg. “How would the city operate if it saw a 35 per cent reduction in revenue?”

Tom McKay, owner of The Great Canadian Oil Change, said he has seen a reduction of 20 per cent in revenue since the new median was completed.

He said that his business along with Dr. Java’s and the Shell gas station all rely on impulse buyers and having the median eliminates 50 per cent of the potential driving traffic.

That was the same refrain heard from Diane Lavoie, who owns Our Little Secret Boutique along with a partnership in Truck Outfitters.

“My business is down 38 per cent. Truck Outfitters is down 42.8 per cent. For locally owned businesses, that is a lot,” she said.

“It does not matter how many cars are on 15th Street or how many cars Peavey Mart will bring. If they cannot access our businesses in a convenient way, they will not access us at all,” Lavoie stated.

Coun. Blake Edwards was in favour of having the new access, but said it should be done in a way that heavy trucks could still access the group of businesses as needed.

Access was available behind the Great Canadian Oil Change at the start of construction. Edwards said he hoped that would remain, but it is on private property.

“The intent originally was to remove that. It would be up to those two private businesses if they want to keep that,” said Wes Hicks, Director of Public Works.

Council, with the opposition of Dionne and Lennox-Zepp, passed the motion to have the median installed and asked staff to have the project done this year.

They also voted to install a U-turn sign in front of Exclusive Auto Marine and that the City start discussions with the rail company with an eye to potentially building a road to gain access to Fourth Avenue. 

“The long or medium-term solution is taking a look at the privately owned land directly to the west of the oil change business and see what we can do,” said Ted Zurakowski. “We start the conversation about getting access at some point in the future. I think this is the start of getting it right, but it’s not the end.”

Staff were directed to make sure the changes are done this fall, something that is possible but council did not allow staff to say exactly how they would balance the new project with two others still to be completed.

“Hearing from council on the need to get this completed this season, we would do what it takes to have it completed, which may result in other projects being unable to be completed,” said Nykol Miller, Capital Projects Manager for the city. “There are some that have open roadways and we have been instructed in previous years to always ensure that roadways are completely paved before winter.”