West end residents worry about safety of 170th Street pedestrian detour

Some residents near West Edmonton Mall say a plan to create a temporary crossing to the mall will leave pedestrians traversing a secluded residential alley and is a safety concern.

'There's no lighting. There's no public view'

Lane Jensen points west to the temporary crossing that's being built at 90th Avenue and 170th Street. (Alex Zabjek/CBC)

Some residents near West Edmonton Mall say a plan to create a temporary crossing to the mall will leave pedestrians traversing a secluded residential alley and is a safety concern.

"I really feel like I'm going to wake up one night to screaming and yelling and will have to go back there to see what's going on. There's no public view of what's going on in that back alley. You can light it up all you want, there's still no public view," said Lane Jensen, whose house on 169th Street backs onto that alley.

Last July, a pedestrian bridge over 170th Street was torn down, leaving pedestrians with significant detours if they want to cross the very busy street to reach the mall on the west side, or the West Meadowlark neighbourhood on the east side. 

The city is now trying to find the best location for a new bridge. In the meantime, a temporary access point is being created at 90th Avenue and 170th Street, with an at-grade cross-walk being set up on the street.

Pedestrians who cross to the east side of 170th Street will have to traverse down this alley to reach another main road. (Alex Zabjek/CBC)

Pedestrians who cross into the residential neighbourhood will end up in an alley that's on the east side of a large noise barrier. Pedestrians will then have to walk the equivalent of a city block, or more, to reach major roads, such as 88th Avenue or 92nd Avenue.

Jensen thinks the path is inappropriate. With a wall on one side, and garages on the other, the path is secluded.

"The alley is heavily rutted. It's completely uneven, there's lots of potholes and everyone has a high fence because of trying to reduce crime and not letting people see what's in your backyard. There's a high wall and a grass berm on the west side and on the east side it's the back of people's garages and high fences...there's no lighting. There's no public view."

He is also worried about an increase of crime, with his neighbourhood directly in the path of Bourbon Street at West Edmonton Mall. Vandals have repeatedly spray-painted graffiti on his garage and people can often be seen smoking drugs on the grass berm at the west end of the alley, he said.

Workers have already torn down a section of the noise barrier directly behind his house. But the city says maintenance to the alley and improved lighting won't happen until next spring.

Jensen said there's enough room on the west side of the noise barrier, which runs along 170th Street, to have created a sidewalk. He thinks the heavy traffic and lighting would help keep more eyes on the area.

Residents asked why a sidewalk was not built on the west side of a noise wall that runs part of the length of 170th Street near 88th Avenue. (Alex Zabjek/CBC)

Coun. Andrew Knack, whose ward includes West Edmonton Mall, was questioned about the temporary crossing at a town hall meeting Wednesday night. 

"It's been really hard for the last couple of years now almost without any type of crossing there," Knack said before the meeting. "So being able to get something in now, while trying to do the best we can to address some of the key safety concerns, through lighting and design, will help while we ultimately get ready to build the whole footbridge."

He said building a sidewalk on the west side of the noise barrier would have been difficult due to the angled slope of the area.


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