Slave Lake drivers haven’t seen the last of the speed limit changes. Thanks largely to the advocacy of Councillor Steve Adams, a plan is now in the works to lower the limit in downtown Slave Lake to 40. Along with that is a proposal to extend the school zone south, to include the crosswalk at 4th Ave. NW.

Those two things were covered in an Adams motion, made at council’s Sept. 19 meeting.

Adams had brought the matter up at an earlier meeting, citing safety concerns. He has a front-row seat out of his office window at the Royal LePage office at Main St. and 4th Ave. NE. He told his colleagues at the meeting he estimates 300 kids cross at the two crosswalks twice daily, going to and from E.G. Wahlstrom School.

“I’ve seen a lot of close calls,” he said. “I don’t want to be sitting here a year from now, saying, ‘That kid got killed, so we should put it to 40.”

Adams bolstered his argument by mentioning a couple of crosswalk deaths that happened in Slave Lake, after which the town put in extra controls.

The report, prepared for council and presented by fire chief Alex Pavcek, offered several options. One was to reduce the Main St. limit to 40 kph from 1A Ave (I.e. just north of the train tracks) to Caribou Trail. This would not affect the school zone alongside the E.G. Wahlstrom School field, which is 30 kph, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on school days.

A second option for council’s consideration was to extend the school speed zone south to 4th Ave. NW. (I.e. the Legion corner). A third was to make no change.

Asked for his recommendation, Pavcek said he preferred no change. Too many changes in speed limit can cause confusion, he noted in his report. Drivers on the whole are already slowing down to below 50 in downtown, he added. The average speed has been recorded (by Global Traffic Group) at 43 kph.

But that wasn’t what Adams wanted to hear.

“The very least I’d like us to do is extend the 30 kph as far as the Legion,” he said.

Adams said he’d been told – years ago – that the reason the school zone ends (or begins) where it does is that “you’re not allowed to have a bar (the Legion) in a school zone. But that’s nuts!”

Adams got support for that idea from his colleagues for that, and pushed on to propose doing both – extending the school zone and lowering the speed limit north of the tracks to 40. He noted that it’s 40 in downtown Edmonton.

“We’re supposed to be encouraging pedestrians,” he said.

Councillor Shawn Gramlich – often an opponent or at least skeptical about traffic enforcement efforts – got on board.

“Forty doesn’t hurt my feelings,” he said.

Mayor Frankie Ward, before calling the question on Adams’ motion, said she doesn’t like to complicate things more for drivers, but the safety considerations, plus the walkability factor, plus the fact the town wants to promote more downtown events – “there’s a lot going on there.”

Councillor Ali Mouallem made the final comment: “It kind of makes sense,” he said, “40 leading into a school zone.”

The vote to proceed was unanimous, but Councillor Brice Ferguson was absent. He is on the record as opposing speed limit changes.

Next, a formal report proposing a bylaw change will come back to council – probably in a couple of weeks – and go through the process of three readings, probably with more debate and discussion.

The speed limit leading up to this busy crosswalk on Main St. in Slave Lake is 50, and at least one town councillor wants it reduced.

by Joe McWilliams