The City of Saskatoon’s neighbourhood traffic review program is being questioned after a vote by city council.
Monday’s session saw a motion from Ward 8 Councillor Eric Olauson calling for the reversal of a May 25 decision to block access to Idylwyld Drive from the westbound lanes of 9th Street East.
The idea for the closure had come out of three community meetings held as part of the neighbourhood traffic review for Nutana between October 2013 and January 2015. In those meetings, concerns were raised about drivers using 9th Street as a shortcut to the freeway.
But a petition drive after the closure called for the reversal, leading Olauson to make his motion in response.
A lengthy debate saw almost every single councillor weigh in. Some, including councillors Mairin Lowen and Darren Hill, expressed dismay at going against a move that resulted from the relatively new traffic review process.
Olauson, noting that each community meeting was attended by only about 100-150 people, said he felt the neighbourhood traffic reviews weren’t an appropriate place to make major decisions about closing down roads. Mayor Don Atchison also expressed concerns with closing down the road, noting that historically, the decision to have access to the freeway off 9th Street was a community based decision too. He said he also had general concerns with closing down roads in a growing city.
Hill tried to put up a competing motion to declare the 9th Street closure temporary, with the idea being to collect data on its impact on area traffic and then make a decision on whether to keep it.
Ultimately, council voted 6-5 in favour of Olauson’s motion to nix the road closure.
Council heard from several speakers. All but one were in favour of keeping the road closed.
Laurel Beaumont spoke in favour of getting rid of the road closure, saying she represented those who had signed the petition to have it removed. She said the closure was simply pushing more traffic onto MacPherson Avenue.
“It doesn’t make sense to take the widest street in the entire area and turn it into a dead end street. It makes no sense to cut traffic flow in half on a wide block just to double the traffic on an adjacent street, that is only two-thirds as wide as the street that was closed and can only accommodate traffic in one direction at a time.
Bruce Stone was among the people in favour of the closure who took part in the traffic review meetings. He said Monday’s council decision left him wondering why he bothered.
“The word I would use is ‘farce.’ There is no reason to go to a community meeting if city council will receive petitions after the fact and reject everything that you’ve done,” he said.
Stone added that in his view, people had plenty of chances to attend the community meetings and have their voices heard, rather than bringing their complaints after the decision had already cleared council.
Another woman who came to watch the vote said she was furious with the decision.
“The people that voted to rescind (the closure) don’t live in our neighbourhood. The lady that brought the petition forward doesn’t live on 9th Street. I live on 9th Street, I’ve already had one child get hit by a car. Now I’m going to have to watch so the next one doesn’t,” she said.
– Council passed changes to the city’s anti-smoking bylaw. With the exception of streets and sidewalks, the changes will ban smoking in all city-owned public spaces like parks, public squares, pools and baseball diamonds. Council will be reviewing whether to add electronic cigarettes to the ban at a later date.
– Council passed amendments to the city’s adult services bylaw aimed at making the licensing process easier for people coming from outside Saskatoon to work as exotic dancers, escorts or unlicensed massage providers. The motion passed with an added request from councillor Randy Donauer for a report reviewing the effectiveness of the bylaw from the Board of Police Commissioners.
– Council approved the placement of a monument to missing and murdered indigenous women in front of the Saskatoon Police Service’s headquarters.