Traffic noise in Riverbend renders backyard 'almost useless,' says resident

Riverbend's 18th Street in Calgary's southeast went from a dead-end street to freeway-like conditions within a few years — but now fed-up residents want to discourage cut-through traffic.

Many in the neighbourhood say they are fed up with noise, safety concerns and congestion

Resident Jill Frischholz says her backyard is rendered useless because of all the noise from 18th Street due to motorists cutting through Riverbend. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

Riverbend's 18th Street in Calgary's southeast went from a dead-end street to freeway-like conditions within a few years — but now fed-up residents want to discourage cut-through traffic.

For commuters in Calgary's deep south, the main route north is Deerfoot Trail — unless traffic along the freeway jams up because of merging problems, collisions or heavy volume during rush hour. Then many folks living in Seton, Mahogany, McKenzie Lake, McKenzie Towne, Auburn Bay and Cranston weave through alternate routes.

But Riverbend residents complain too many are racing through a short-cut that includes 18th Street S.E.,  which has evolved from a quiet residential street to a busy thoroughfare that connects commuters to Glenmore Trail, or even further north into Ogden.

All that traffic passes by the back of Jill Frischholz's home that she bought 13 years ago.

"We always joke, Riverbenders slow down, we live here," said  Frischholz.

It's the people that commute through the neighbourhood, that just, they  don't care, they just don't have faces to the homes here, and they drive very recklessly through the neighbourhood.- Jill Frischholz , Riverbend  resident

A few  years ago, Frischholz's then 16-year-old daughter received a minor concussion when she was struck by a vehicle while crossing at a crosswalk on 18th Street.

"It's the people that commute through the neighbourhood, that just, they don't care, they just don't have faces to the homes here, and they drive very recklessly through the neighbourhood.

29,000 vehicles a day soar to 43,000

The southeast street used to be a dead-end road in Riverbend. That was before Quarry Park was built immediately south of the community. The city extended the road several years ago to allow for better access into the new community. 

According to the city traffic flow counts, in 2007, when 18th Street was a dead-end road,  29,000 vehicles per day were counted at the north end near Glenmore Trail.

In 2012, after 18th Street was extended, it went up to 37,000.

And by 2017, it reached 43,000 vehicles per day.

'Ridiculously long' lights aggravate drivers

Paul Sztogryn, wearing a baggy, blue T-shirt and shorts, walks up while I'm taking photos where 18th now crosses into Quarry Park. 

He says he liked it better the way it was before.

Paul Sztogryn points to what used to be the end of 18th Street S.E., which now extends farther south to Quarry Park. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

"There was three-way stop and that was all field over there," said Sztogryn, pointing to what is now the community of Quarry Park, built immediately south of Riverbend, and which once contained a gravel pit.

"These lights are way too long, ridiculously long," said Sztogryn, talking about the lights at 18th and 21st streets.

"It kind of aggravates people, and they sit there and they sit there and they sit there and sometimes there's no cars coming and they have to wait."

'It keeps getting worse and worse'

Increased traffic and difficulty getting out of one's side street or cul-de-sac are common complaints to community representatives.

"It seems over time it keeps getting worse and worse ... we're trying to figure how to make this work, " said Douglas Ratke, president of the Riverbend Community Association.

"When we were working with the city to open that up, we accounted for the Douglas Glen, Douglasdale, and Quarry Park," said Ratke.

Riverbend Community Association president Douglas Ratke says cut-through traffic along 18th Street S.E. generates noise, safety concerns and congestion. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

"We didn't account for anybody further south than that because we thought who is going to  make such a big trip. But after you travel Bow Bottom Trail and Deerfoot Trail a couple of times, yeah, I can see why they would want to cut through."

Redirections, sound walls, Deerfoot changes

Still, Ratke says the city could make a few tweaks to help discourage traffic on 18th Street and push them onto 24th Street — a lesser known route but one he says is arguably a faster alternative that also takes drivers to Glenmore Trail or further north into Ogden.

He'd like the city to change the dual turning lane at the 24th Street and 18th Street intersections to a single turning lane, temporarily, while at the same time putting up a sign to let drivers know they can go straight through on 24th Street.

Peoples' behaviour is peoples' behaviour and it's hard to change. But if you make something inconvenient, that's always the best way.- Douglas Ratke, president of the Riverbend Community Association

"Peoples' behaviour is peoples' behaviour and it's hard to change. But if you make something inconvenient, that's always the best way," Ratke says.

"And they're going to say, where else can I go, what else can I do here, and they're going to try that (24th) and say I never knew I could get through here."

Stop-and-go, morning rush hour traffic heading north along 18th Street S.E. in Riverbend. (Douglas Ratke)

He'd also like the city to install some lights along 18th where residents are having trouble exiting their cul-de-sac, and a sound wall to reduce noise levels.

That's music to Frischholz's ears. 

"We would love a sound barrier, for us, our backyard is rendered almost useless. We have a really difficult time sitting out on our deck enjoying our company."

Coun. Shane Keating says cut-through traffic is a problem right across his ward, especially as the southeast has exploded with growth and because of the problems on Deerfoot.

He says he's willing to work with the community to come up with ways to help ease congestion and encourage drivers to choose 24th Street S.E. because even though its a few blocks east of 18th, it has fewer lights and less traffic, so he says it actually moves a lot faster.

"Education is the issue," said Keating, who recently put this information out on his Facebook page, which shows maps of the area and which route is better.

"And a number of the responses we got is, 'Well, gee, I take 18th all the time, I  never realized 24th would be faster, so I'm switching.'"

While this may help reduce traffic along 18th Street, it doesn't resolve the bigger issue, according to Ratke.

He'd like to see fixes to Deerfoot that will make it a better road to use by starting with a proper cloverleaf at Bow Bottom Trail.


Colleen Underwood has been a reporter/editor with CBC news for more than 10 years filing stories from across southern Alberta for radio, television and online. Follow her on Twitter @cbccolleen.


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