(Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Former Red Deer city manager warns killing the Molly Banister Drive extension is ‘a terrible mistake’

Craig Curtis will argue for keeping the road alignment at next week’s public hearing

Red Deer’s former city manager “strongly” urges preserving the future Molly Banister Drive extension, saying it’s the most important planning decision city council can make for growth and development.

“Every transportation study has supported it, and over 10 city councils have endorsed the need for the road,” says Craig Curtis, who started as an urban planner for the City of Red Deer and worked for the municipality for nearly three decades.

The Molly Banister Drive extension was first put into the city’s plans in the 1970s. Without the road someday crossing Piper Creek to join up with 40th Avenue and 22nd Street, the city will face massive traffic congestion by the time the local population hits 188,000, says Curtis.

“It would be a terrible mistake” to reject the alignment, he adds — as the only future solution would be constructing “huge” interchanges at 19th and 32nd streets, costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

“I am very, very supportive of parks and open spaces,” maintains the former city manager, who assisted in the development of the Waskasoo Park system. He named this his most fulfilling accomplishment in an interview before his 2019 retirement.

“But you always have to make certain compromises…”

Curtis recalls many citizens in the early 1990s had clamoured for a linear park to be developed along a former rail line, “but where would we be without Taylor Drive?”

And how would Red Deer function without the 67th Street bridge — which took out part of the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary when it was built?

The fate of the Molly Banister Drive extension could finally be settled next week, after four decades of controversy. A special city council public hearing is being held at 1 p.m. on Tuesday at the Harvest Centre at Westerner Park.

Two microphones will be set up in adjoining rooms so that Red Deerians can speak either for or against a proposal to remove the right-of-way for a future extension of Molly Banister Drive.

The presentations will be viewed remotely by city councillors via live video feed from City Hall.

Most recently, city administrators recommended the road alignment be removed from plans, citing environmental concerns about that wildlife corridor and the fact 19th Street will have to be expanded someday, in any case.

Curtis believes this decision was only reached because city council had nixed doing a new traffic study.

Without a road over the creek, Melcor Developments could build more houses in the undeveloped area south of Sunnybrook. The city would benefit from 105-acres of taxable new residential development.

Red Deerians would also get 40 acres added to Waskasoo Park — as promised by Melcor — as well as 10 acres of municipal reserve, noted local environmentalist Rod Trentham, who has argued for parks over roads as a quality-of-life issue.

While the future road extension “may offer a small reduction in vehicular commute times, (it) will defile a quiet peaceful park area,” Trentham wrote in a letter to the Advocate.

But Curtis feels this sacrifice of some wooded area would be “minor.” He noted a new bridge spanning the creek would be more environmentally friendly than the culvert that Piper Creek currently flows through under 19th Street.

Curtis plans to attend Tuesday’s public hearing to talk about two future subdivisions planned for east of 20th Avenue. Their only access would be 19th Street, or the already congested 32nd Street, if the extension is not allowed.

Although population growth has slowed to a crawl during a recessed economy that’s left both the province and the municipality without deep pockets for road building, Curtis believes “it’s time to consider the big picture… I think Alberta is innovative, can embrace change and begin to grow again.”

Whether the vehicles of tomorrow are powered by fossil fuels or electricity, roads will be needed, he noted. “We can’t be mired in defeatism.”

Nearly 60 per cent of citizens in a recent informal city survey supported keeping the road allowance. Curtis hopes enough people without a personal stake in the matter will show up at the hearing to voice their opinions.

Attendees will be required to wear masks and physical distance.

Members of the public can also dial into the hearing by phone by calling 1-833-714-0895 and entering 7198953.

Presentations will be limited to 10 minutes.

Cityof Red Deer

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Craig Curtis, Red Deer's former city manager. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Just Posted

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Red Deer jumps to 449 active COVID-19 cases on Sunday

1,516 new cases identified in Alberta

The QEII was closed Sunday morning due to a pole fire. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
UPDATE: QEII near Red Deer reopens

The QEII has been reopened after being closed due to a pole… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

San Jose's Tomas Hertl, center, celebrates with teammates Patrick Marleau, left, and Rudolfs Blacers, right, after Hertl scored a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Friday, April 16, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s games record

For Patrick Marleau, the best part about Monday night when he is… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

WASHINGTON — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at… Continue reading

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Federal government to send health-care workers to Ontario, Trudeau says

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says federal departments and some Canadian… Continue reading

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

Most Read