At a meeting on Monday (Oct. 28), council directed administration to conduct a feasibility study into relocating the Banff sign and report on costs and options for potential new locations.
At the same time, they gave administration the go-ahead to refine the traffic calming trial at the west entrance in 2020 with shorter planters and other possible changes to make sure the busy area is safe as people cross the road to snap photos by the Banff sign.
While there were many complaints this year that traffic calming trial, with planters, a crosswalk and reduced speed limit led to more traffic chaos, Town of Banff officials say its investigation showed that trains were responsible for almost 85 per cent of delays and congestion.
They say CPR was doing night-time maintenance work on the tracks, meaning there were more and more trains during the day that appeared to be going at slower speeds through town, and back to back.
“It became very clear to us with the benefit of hours and hours and days worth of knowledge what the root cause of most of the congestion is – and it’s trains,” said Adrian Field, the Town’s director of engineering, at a council meeting on Monday (Oct. 28).
“When the train is gone there still is a traffic jam, and the difference is what people perceive is that planters have caused the congestion and that’s simply not true. Our recommendation is that slowing down traffic at that junction is important for pedestrian safety.”
Last year, council approved a traffic calming trial for the west entrance to improve pedestrian safety in the area of the Banff sign, Fenlands intercept parking lot, Norquay Road trail and Legacy Trail.
However, complaints from the public this year centred around safety concerns about small children running out from behind the planters and being struck by vehicles, as well as adverse effects on traffic flow, resulting in congestion and delays.
Pierre-Hugues Gagnon, the Town of Banff’s engineering coordinator, said that traffic calming by design rather than posted speed limit is an efficient way to modify motorist and pedestrian behaviour.
Based on informal observations from Banff’s bylaw department and the RCMP as well as video documentation, he said vehicle traffic speeds appear to have dropped as a result of the traffic calming measures this summer.
In response to concerns, Gagnon said the Town hired traffic control personnel to manage pedestrian and vehicle traffic at the crosswalk for the July, August and September long weekends to help with traffic flow, thereby reducing congestion and delays.
In addition to a host of other measures, he said the speed limit was reduced from 40km/h to 30km/h from the townsite boundary to Lynx Street.
Gagnon said the sheer volume of traffic this summer didn’t help.
“Every single day in July and August was above the thresholds for congestion in the Town of Banff, so 24,000 vehicles per day,” he said.
Coun. Ted Christensen said the studies were helpful, but he still wants to find a new location for the welcoming sign to be considered.
“I think the increase in traffic in trains isn’t going to diminish; we don’t have a pipeline, we’re shipping oil,” he said.
“We have a problem with congestion, we’ve done some mitigations with that problem, but to me the sign is still a part of that problem … It’s a fine introduction to Banff, possibly in the wrong place.”
Mayor Karen Sorensen supported the feasibility study.
“I’m not saying that moving the sign is necessarily the right answer or the be all and end all, but I sure would like to talk about it,” she said.
“I think there are quite a few of the public that do believe this is an important step to take.”
Coun. Corrie DiManno said the sign provides a nice sense of welcoming to Banff, is popular and well loved.
“That being said, I am open to understanding what else we can do with that sign,” she said.