(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

Lynne McConnell, a Red Deer single mom who runs a delivery company, is left without a car for her business after her vehicle was stolen twice in about 48 hours. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Highway 11, from Sylvan Lake to Rocky Mountain House, is about to be twinned in a $120-million project announced Friday. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Town of Sylvan Lake likes Highway 11 twinning plans

Province plans to twin Highway 11 to Rocky Mountain House

The Red Deer Boxing Club has raised money to expand programming, but still needs a larger space to operate in when it’s allowed to reopen. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer Boxing Club has obtained $70,000 in grants but is still seeking a larger space

Without expanded programming, the grants must be returned: manager

Lynn Van Laar, chair of this year’s Christmas Wish Breakfast, said the event was planned outdoors to minimize the risk of COVID. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Outdoor Christmas Wish Breakfast helps central Alberta families this holiday season

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to stop children from having a merry… Continue reading

A fall stretch of long, warm weather has meant a much better harvest than last year, when this kind of snow arrived a month earlier.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Snowy roads in the forecast for Central Albertans

Central Albertans should expect a little extra snow on the roads for… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Chris Douglas will take on a different hockey challenge later this month, playing NHL 21 in a virtual Memorial Cup competition against some of the best players in the CHL. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Douglas pumped to represent Rebels in virtual Memorial Cup showdown

In more than 250 days, Chris Douglas hasn’t had a chance to… Continue reading

Hockey Canada president and CEO Scott Smith speaks during a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. Hockey Canada announced Tuesday that two players at its nation junior selection camp have tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Two players at Canada’s World Junior selection camp test positive for COVID-19

Canada’s world junior hockey selection camp in Red Deer came to a… Continue reading

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) knocks a pass away from Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Goff throws for 376 yards, 3 TDs in Rams’ 27-24 win vs Bucs

Goff throws for 376 yards, 3 TDs in Rams’ 27-24 win vs Bucs

New York Red Bulls midfielder Dru Yearwood, left, fights for the ball against Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio during an MLS soccer match in Harrison, N.J., on November 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
Experienced Toronto FC ready to take on upstart Nashville SC in playoff action

Experienced Toronto FC ready to take on upstart Nashville SC in playoff action

Canada's head coach Dave Lowry during practice at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland, on Wednesday, December 30, 2015. The Winnipeg Jets have hired Lowry as an assistant coach. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Former WHL head coach Dave Lowry joins Paul Maurice’s staff in Winnipeg

Former WHL head coach Dave Lowry joins Paul Maurice’s staff in Winnipeg

Felix Auger-Aliassime, of Canada, returns a shot to Dominic Thiem, of Austria, during the fourth round of the US Open tennis championships in New York on September 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Seth Wenig
A steady if unspectacular season comes to a close for Canada’s Auger-Aliassime

A steady if unspectacular season comes to a close for Canada’s Auger-Aliassime

Most Read