A Red Deer city councillor is pledging to fight “tooth and nail” to block the development of a high-speed expressway through the city’s northeast quadrant.
“I know the goal is to move people through the city, and I’m fully supportive of that, but I’m not supportive of a six-lane expressway,” Paul Harris said on Wednesday, during a meeting of Red Deer’s municipal planning commission.
The issue came up following a presentation by city planner Jordan Furness on a draft Timber Ridge neighbourhood area structure plan. The proposed quarter-section development, which is north of Rosedale and east of Timberstone, would be bordered to the east by a roadway that’s expected to eventually expand into a 90 km/h expressway.
Built as 20th Avenue, it would form part of a ring road on the city’s east side.
Harris said he supports the efficient movement of traffic through the city, but would oppose an expressway that requires a wide right-of-way and sound barriers in residential areas.
“It’s going to divide our community into three pieces,” he said, pointing to Hwy 2 as an existing divide to the west.
Furness confirmed that some cities are removing expressways from densely populated areas because of their impact on community walkability and the fact they separate neigbourhoods. He added that the jump from a 70 km/h roadway like 30th Avenue to a 90 km/h route like 20th Avenue is slated to become would bring with it the need for a much wider right-of-way, sound attenuation features like berms and walls, and higher construction and maintenance costs.
Ultimately, said Furness, it boils down to the importance of allowing people to get from one side of the city to the other rapidly.
“If you’re moving them from the south end to the north end in order to be able to (get to) work quickly, maybe the decision should be made that if you want to work in the north end in one short drive, then you should probably live in the north end.”
Frank Colosimo, Red Deer’s Engineering Services director, told the commission that the current plan is for 20th Avenue to be developed in about 10 years, with its expansion to four lanes to occur as the city extends further east.
“The ultimate six-lane would just be driven by development,” he said, adding that the population trigger would be around 150,000 to 160,000 people.
Harris thinks the matter should be debated much sooner.
“I think it has to come up now, in the public, and it needs to be really thrashed about before we start requiring that land use to change.”
The Timber Ridge neighbourhood area structure plan is expected to come before council in July or August, said Furness. In its current form, it calls for 978 dwelling units consisting of low-density (R1), semi-detached (R1A), narrow lot (R1N), medium density (R2) and multi-family (R3) housing.
Commercial development is also proposed, with land set aside for a church and social care site as well. Green space would be developed in each quarter of the subdivision, including a constructed wetlands area to the northwest.
An area has also been earmarked for a school, with the current intention a public middle school, said Furness.
One collector road would run east-west and another north-south, with these possibly intersecting at a roundabout near the centre of Timber Ridge.
The land is being developed by Laebon Developments.