By Nikki Jamieson
Long term parking and obstructed views are prompting safety concerns about an important intersection in Vauxhall.
Vauxhall peace officer Jason Schreiber came to Vauxhall town council during their regular May 1 meeting to discuss the parking issue along 1st Street North. The road running along the eastern edge of town is a popular stopping place along Highway 36 for heavy truck drivers, but weekend-long parking there is causing safety issues.
“What I found is that a lot of truck operators that are coming through, some of them pull in there to stay the night — which we would rather have that, then have them falling asleep on the road if they need a place to park — that’s not a problem. The problem we seem to find, that I get the most complaints about, is specifically the west side of 1st Street (North), between 2nd Avenue 3rd Avenue — so right along the side of Wendy’s,” said Schreiber.
“When they park there, the vision is really hard to see around the corners, if anyone is coming or going. There’s that concern and residents within the town, specifically the ones that operator trucks that live on the northeast part of town, feel that the 1st Avenue truck parking is too far for them, for whatever reason, and they park there.”
According to the letter Schreiber provided for information, concerns have been brought forth from Vauxhall residents and visitors over the parking situation along 1st Street North, from 2nd Avenue North to 7th Avenue North.
Although the letter stresses that they are fine with heavy truck operators parking there to get something to eat, or pulling in there overnight and departing the next morning, as the town’s Traffic Bylaw permits, the issue is from local residents and/or operators using that road to park their tractor trailers for days on end. Citing the example of last Easter weekend, where there were units parked there for four days straight, these instances lead to decreased visibility at the main town entrance off Highway 36, raising potential safety issues.
“The majority of the complaints I got on the Easter weekend, were some of the trucks parked there on Thursday night, and stayed there until Tuesday morning. When they get left there all weekend, you can tell it’s not somebody just needing a place to stay overnight, it’s somebody who just decided to leave it there over the weekend.”
The letter concludes by recommending that council have a traffic control device on the west side of the street, or to prohibit parking on the narrow stretch of the road from 3rd Avenue to 7th Avenue, effectively restricting parking to around the gas station. Schreiber added that although he can run license plates and contact vehicle owners, when he is not around, some sort of traffic control device in the area may discourage some from parking there.
“I’d hate to get rid of the parking there, though I understand the issues, you know and I’m hoping people use it more as a safety,” said Margaret Plumtree, Vauxhall mayor. “You know, they’re tired, they pull off, 6-7 o’clock in the morning. Then you don’t mind so much because there’s not a whole lot of traffic on our roads then.”
“But definitely, people who are in town, we want to see them using the 1st Avenue North (heavy truck parking lot), because we went through all the work trying to get that set up, so it’s safer parking,” said Plumtree.
Schreiber said that in his talks with the town residents who park there, the most common answer he gets is that they park there because it is more convenient to them.
Extended, overnight parking on 1st Street North is not a new problem to the area.
A previous incarnation of council had tried to curb the problem, but had little success.
According to the Vauxhall Advance archive, during a March 2012 meeting, council had unanimously voted to post “no overnight parking” signage along 1st Street between 2nd Avenue and 7th Avenue, citing safety issues.
However, a month later, in a 6-1 vote, council reversed that decision, due to Vauxhall’s community and business members voicing strong opposition to the move, having seen it as the town saying “that truckers are not welcome here”.
But at the time, there had been no overnight places for trucks to park. The town has designated truck parking on 1st Avenue North, although there are some restrictions.
“One operator was quite upset when I told him he couldn’t put his truck down on 1st Avenue with a cattle liner on it, cause he says that’s what he hauls, so he said, ‘Where am I supposed to unhook my trailer when I park for the night?’ So he was pretty upset about the fact that was one of the conditions; he couldn’t park on 1st Avenue with his cattle liner,” said Schreiber.
Additionally, Schreiber says there are some frequent parkers that have gone through the steps and have a permit to park in the town designated heavy truck parking, but choose to park on 1st Street North instead.
But without signage, he can’t do more then talk to people about it.
Council wondered if they could extend the truck pull out in front of the gas station so there is more room for parking there, with both town CAO Cris Burns and Schreiber believing they would need permission from Alberta Transportation to do so, as it is on Alberta Transportation property.
“That stretch is not a big deal to me, as you’re blocking the view, thats it. What concerns me more is towards Wendy’s there, when you’re driving south and you get to that three-way stop, and you have to look around the corner for traffic coming from the north, you can’t see,” said Kim Cawley, Vauxhall councillor. “You can’t see around that corner. It’s hard to judge how much time you’re going to have to get across that intersection.”
Cawley inquired if they could ban parking along that narrow strip there. Plumtree agreed that they should look into putting up signs there, and see if they extend the turn around in front of the gas station.
Burns said he would talk to Alberta Transportation to see if the latter was possible, and Schreiber said they were looking into different signage.
Coun.(s) Richard Phillips and Martin Kondor were absent from the meeting.