Veer: What’s in a sign

To build a sign, or not build a sign, has been one of our community conversations over the past couple of weeks. For this month’s column, I thought I would discuss the how the South gateway sign came to be, and what is yet to come.

Red Deer, over the years, has had signs at some of our city entrances, but not all. They have been many and varied, and have included (at times incorrect) population numbers, community descriptions (“A nuclear weapons free zone” and “A delight to discover”), the City’s corporate logo, various sketches of a deer, and occasionally were located outside the City’s border. These various signs, over the years, had at times grown derelict or outdated, making the cost of maintaining them prohibitive.

A few years ago, a time sensitive opportunity presented itself that was important for the City to leverage for our community.

The City, in partnership with Red Deer County, had advocated to the Provincial Government to resolve the traffic safety issue of Red Deer traffic (at City speeds) using the left lane to merge into QEll traffic (at highway speeds) at the City’s South egress.

When Alberta Transportation decided to proceed with the interchange project for safety reasons, the City had numerous discussions with Alberta Transportation to give input into the proposed interchange design from the City’s perspective (the City is not privy to whether or not the County had similar discussions with Alberta Transportation).

One of the outcomes of the City’s discussions with Alberta Transportation was the opportunity for land to be allocated as part of the Provincial project for entryway signage into the City. While entryway signage was not necessarily identified as a capital priority for the City at the time, the fact that the Province was willing to designate land for this purpose, and even more importantly grade the site in preparation for it, presented the City with an opportunity that allowed our community to realize the economies of scale by erecting a sign sooner rather than later. In short, it was far more affordable to install entrance way signage while the area was already under construction for the Provincial interchange project, than if we decided to install signage in the distant future. Notably, there were some design restrictions placed on the City by Alberta Transportation, to avoid passing traffic from stopping on the highway to be photographed in front of the sign, which would generate a new safety concern.

When the proposed sign budget came to City Council for approval, Council asked numerous questions and it was clarified the budgeting for the entryway project would be split with the Province to cover land and grading costs, and the City to cover the sign, associated lighting and landscaping. As noted in various publications, the budgeted amount was $1.067 million, but the actual expenditure upon completion is anticipated to be more in the order of $750,000, approximately $317,000 less than the budgeted amount. The remainder of the unused budget will be refunded back to capital savings.

Because of the weather, only the major structural components have been installed to date. In the spring, the completion of landscaping, lighting and other minor components will be completed.

I hope this helps to answer some of your questions until next month. As always, Council thanks you for the ongoing opportunity to represent you. We look forward to seeing you all in the near future and hearing about what is important to citizens in our community.

Until next time…

Mayor Tara Veer

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