Municipalities to regulate playground zones, highway lanes

By Cailynn Klingbeil, Edmonton Journal October 29, 2013

EDMONTON – A new act proposed by the Alberta government would let municipalities set local rules for playground zones and allow for designated highway lanes to deal with traffic-flow problems, the province’s transportation minister said Tuesday.

Bill 32, Enhancing Safety on Alberta Roads Act, will amend the Traffic Safety Act and the Highways Development Protection Act, Ric McIver announced outside Mills Haven Elementary School in Sherwood Park.

“We think this is a good step because across the province’s different schools start at different times, and different municipalities have asked for different standards,” McIver said.

Under current legislation, municipalities can set the hours during which school-zone speed limits are in effect. The new act would give that same authority for playground zones.

A speed limit of 30 km/h is currently in effect every day from 8:30 a.m. to one hour after sunset at all playground zones in Alberta.

“It’s all about the use of our schools,” said Roxanne Carr, mayor of Strathcona County. “We’re getting into full utilization of our schools, and that’s exciting, but we need to keep our children safe when we’re doing that.”

She said the county will engage parent councils and the public to find the best solution to local conditions.

If the legislation passes, McIver said the new rules will begin next school year.

Other changes announced Tuesday include giving the province authority to designate lane use for provincial highways. Currently, municipalities can designate lane use on municipal roads, but the province doesn’t have the same authority for provincial roads and highways, such as Anthony Henday Drive in Edmonton or Highway 63 through Fort McMurray.

The proposed legislation would change that, dealing with unique traffic-flow issues such as priority bus lanes, high-occupancy vehicles and designated lanes for slow-moving vehicles.

“We will be evaluating Alberta’s highway system to look for those opportunities,” McIver said.

The legislation is motivated by oilsands-related traffic pressures felt in Fort McMurray, McIver said Monday. Highway shoulders could be used as bus lanes, he said, taking cars off the road and increasing safety.

Other amendments will help align legislation with Criminal Code changes to ensure traffic safety legislation is strong, clear and consistent.

Alberta’s opposition parties critized the government’s announcement of Bill 32.

“Give a proper briefing, introduce the bill, and then do your advertising after the fact. They’ve got it out of order,” Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said.

“To have the announcement come out before the bill is tabled, I think, is putting the cart before the horse and is, to an extent, unparliamentary,” said Deron Bilous, NDP transportation critic.

A spokesman for McIver said that all three opposition parties were invited to individual meetings with ministry staff Monday to be briefed on the bill, but said only the Wildrose and Liberal critics showed up. The NDP, however, said ministry staff missed two scheduled meetings Monday.

With files from Mariam Ibrahim

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