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Rally for Prior: Tomorrow!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Residents of Strathcona... set your alarms.

Members of the community are invited to a peaceful demonstration of community support for not putting the arterial on Prior or through the park. Please gather at the Linear Park at Hawks and Prior at 8:30AM tomorrow, Saturday, Jan 26. The 42 members of the Panel will be gathering across the street near the baseball diamond at 9 AM. The SRA will be giving a brief talk soon thereafter.  It will all be over by 9:30.

Please remember that the panelists are fellow members of our community who have volunteered to help make a difficult decision. We want to show them resepect, but also that we care about this issue and the ramifications it will have for the future of Strathcona. Anger or intimidation will send the wrong message. So be cool, don't shout, bring signs (Restore Prior/Save the Park) and stay on the north side of Prior. 

Below is the SRA's speech (as you probably won't be able to hear it over the traffic noise). If you support this position, please e-mail the mayor and council (their e-mails are below). Your e-mails are already having an impact, but we need to keep them coming. Look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

WHY NOT PRIOR?  A Presentation to the Community Panel

Good morning. Today, I’m speaking on behalf of the 12,000 residents of Strathcona and particularly those who live on Prior.

I am not an urban planner nor a civil engineer. I just live here. As do all the other people who have come out today to send a message: Your choice isn’t just about a street. It’s about the future of a neighbourhood.

But before talking about the future, I want to talk about the past.

In 1900, Prior was a quiet dead-end street with working class homes along either side. In the late 1950s, Prior was joined to Venables, which is why there’s a curve near the tracks. Not long after that, the City decided we needed a freeway to downtown. The plan was to demolish all these homes to clear the way for it. Residents fought back and the plan was defeated. Somehow, the Georgia Viaduct got built anyway. But it was left with no freeway to feed into. So all that freeway traffic was rerouted onto a quiet residential street: Prior.

Today, in a neighbourhood where everybody walks, hardy anybody walks on Prior. It’s busy, it’s noisy, it’s thick with exhaust fumes. People don’t use Strathcona Park because they don’t want to cross Prior. School groups, community centre classes don’t use the park because they don’t want to risk somebody getting hit.

The City is well aware of this.

In 2008, when the overpass was first proposed, engineers determined it should be on Malkin. In 2016, they reaffirmed that choice, posting on the city’s website that “subsequent work has reconfirmed that the existing alignment along Prior/Venables is poorly suited to accommodate an improved link due to proximity to residential uses and a limited right-of-way to improve the existing conditions…”

It’s too narrow. It’s too close to homes. It’s 9,000 cars a day over capacity.

In 2015 and again in 2018, City Council unanimously passed motions to restore Prior to a local serving street.

But that is now somehow conveniently forgotten. Now the City wants to tear down the Viaducts, but they’re also asking you to consider keeping a freeway on Prior. Because it’s already here. The damage has already been done. Too bad.

To us, that is just plain wrong. When you make a mistake, you apologize and you fix it.

Instead that wrong is being compounded by the fact that this is all being done so that a second wall can divide Strathcona. The only reason for the overpass is so the railroad can turn a rarely used spur line into a busy mainline. All the other at-grade road crossings will be closed so that trains can run 24/7.

Which means Prior will not stay the same as it is today. Once the at-grade crossing at Glen and Parker is closed, Prior will be the only truck access for Produce Row. Once the overpass blocks Glen and Raymur, 4000 trucks a week will need to turn left at Hawks. That’s roughly one a minute. It will also become a primary ambulance route to the hospital. Plus a bus line, rush hour and residential traffic. How can any reasonable civil engineer possibly think that it’s adequate for an arterial?

Setting all that aside, the injustice, the inadequacy, I’d like you to ask for a moment to bend the Panel rules a little bit and not just focus on this arterial in isolation.

Think about what your choice will mean for the future. What possibilities will it open up?

What happens if you agree with us that Prior should be restored to the residential street it was built to be?

School groups, community groups, families, and seniors could feel safe crossing it and so more residents will start to use the greenspace that was intended for them.

Strathcona Park could re-imagined as a park for the people who live here. A hundred trees could be planted to offset air pollution from trains and trucks, to preserve and provide habitat for eagles and other wildlife, to create an urban sanctuary in an area of town that already has insufficient greenspace, a neighbourhood with the city’s highest density of social housing, of people who need a park.

People could walk on Prior again. Residents who live on Prior could finally park in front of their homes. This street traffic could help businesses popping up on Prior to flourish.

A pedestrian and bike under or overpass could be built to cross the railroad tracks. A re-routed shuttle bus could provide the same service the 22 bus provides now. The No. 1 Fire Station could be turned into a much-needed community centre.

Maybe I’m getting carried away. Maybe all these things won’t happen. But I can guarantee you that if you decide to put the arterial on Prior, none of them will happen.

Sometimes the cheapest choice, or the easiest choice, isn’t is best choice. Sometimes investing a little in today opens the possibilities for a so much better tomorrow.

Don’t choose a street, choose a future.


Here are the e-mails for City Council. You can copy and paste them into your e-mail message...;;;;;;;;;;

Finally, we want to share with you a video that was recently shared with us about the City's plans for Strathcona in the mid-1960's:  Blight! The Movie