Calgary proposes 2 solutions for the city's 'worst intersection'

Calgary is moving a little closer to finding a solution for that pesky intersection at Macleod Trail and 25th Avenue.

Drivers and pedestrians alike have complained about the Macleod Trail and 25th Avenue traffic lights

Calgary is looking at short and long-term fixes for the intersection at 25th Avenue and Macleod Trail. (Google Maps)

Calgary is moving a little closer to finding a solution for one of the city's most frustrating intersections.

Both long and short-term fixes are being discussed for the intersection of Macleod Trail and 25th Avenue.

The intersection has irked pedestrians, cyclists and drivers for years.

For those on foot, it's a long walk from one side to the other, while drivers are left impatiently waiting for what must seem like minutes for the light to turn green, only to have it quickly switch back to red so C-Trains can keep moving through Erlton LRT station.

And, with the recent addition of 4-car C-Trains and Calgary Transit's plan to increase train frequency from five minutes to three, those grievances are likely only going to get worse. 

"The big idea is 25th Avenue and Macleod Trail, right there at the Humpty's, at the southern gateway to the Stampede, is probably the worst intersection in the city, made horrendous as one of the few east-west crossings in that section of the city," said Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra.

"This is a terrible intersection causing grief for commutes."

The intersection is often described as a headache for drivers and pedestrians alike. (Google Maps)

Carra said the intersection's issues aren't just about mobility, but also real estate value, with the valuable plots of land near both the river and Stampede Grounds, and the proximity to 17th Avenue S.W.

"You have a beautiful site, taking in a spectacular view, with an LRT station right there, and it's being treated as sort of a bunch of back-of-house parking lots," he said.

The city ruled out plans for an interchange at the location in 2016, and instead is looking at ways to improve the intersection while developing the land in a way that encourages more walkability as part of the street's designation as an "urban boulevard." That plan includes an emphasis on transit- and community-oriented, mixed-use development in the surrounding area.

The idea of lowering the LRT tracks was also tossed out, due to the area being on a floodway, and the difficulty of regrading the slope of the tracks along the Cemetery Hill tunnel.

Flyover vs. elevated LRT station

The city has come up with two possible fixes, and neither one is cheap.

The first would see the Erlton C-Train station elevated over 25th Avenue, with pathways and sidewalks added to connect people more easily with both Reader Rock Garden and the Stampede grounds. 

The east leg of 25th Avenue would be relocated slightly north of the existing intersection, where two at-grade pedestrian crossings would be added.

A rendering shows a concept proposed for redesigning the intersection at Macleod Trail and 25th Avenue that would see the C-Train tracks elevated, and 25th Avenue relocated slightly north. (McElhanney/City of Calgary)

The second concept would see the LRT station and tracks stay in the same place, but single-lane flyover would direct traffic from 25th Avenue over the tracks, before reconnecting north on Macleod.

The U-turn south of the river would also be reversed, and the east leg of the intersection would be closed. 

A rendering shows an option for redeveloping Macleod Trail and 25th Avenue, that would see 25th Avenue turned into a flyover that passes above the LRT tracks. (City of Calgary/McElhanney)

Both plans would take more than 20 years to implement and funding has yet to be allocated to either option.

The total cost of the elevated station was estimated at $129.5 million and the total cost of the flyover at $25.2 million.

Both estimates include the cost of work on the roadway, LRT track, station, nearby structures, traffic signals and utility relocations, as well as budgeted additional costs for contingencies and engineering. 

Carra said in the meantime, there will be short-term fixes like improving traffic lights, introducing a new turn lane and lowering the speed limit on Macleod Trail to 50 km/h.

"In the short term, there's a package of fixes that we can sort of undertake which are [to] put in a better computer organizing the light, because I've sat there and missed like a couple of light cycles and I understand the frustration," he said.

Slower speed, shorter waits

It might seem counterintuitive, Carra said, to slow speed limits to improve wait times at the traffic light, but it actually works.

"When cars move slower you get more cars through intersections. Roads that have a slower speed actually carry more traffic, and the reason is that the traffic can actually go more close bumper-to-bumper and if everyone slows down more people move and it's better," he said.

Both plans will be discussed at council's transit and transportation committee meeting on May 3.

The meeting will be open to the public, and those interested are able to submit feedback in advance of the meeting, or attend and present to committee. 

With files from Scott Dippel