During tonight's meeting of Weyburn City Council, a unanimous vote approved camera-sensor traffic lights to be installed at the intersection of First Avenue and Government Road. This is one of two locations set to receive the infrastructure upgrade, with the second location, First Avenue and 16th Street northeast, awaiting pending funding.

Can-Traffic Services Ltd. was awarded the RFP for $206,465.74 including PST.

According to Engineering Director Jennifer Wilkinson, the lights require replacement due to the aging and obsolete infrastructure. The City will pre-purchase a new traffic controller, the traffic signal poles, anchor bolts, arms, and signal light heads directly from the supplier at an estimated cost of $72,000 per location. The budget for the traffic light replacements is $350,000 and includes the purchase, delivery, and installation of all new infrastructure associated with the traffic signals.

The Engineering department applied for funding from the SGI Provincial Traffic Safety Fund (being awarded June 30th) for the maximum allowable funded limit of $100,000 for the 16th Street and 1st Avenue traffic signal installation.

City Councillor Ryan Janke explained that with First Avenue at Sixteenth Street currently being a four-way stop, it would be quite an improvement for the flow of traffic. This is also concurrent with a recent traffic study, which also determined that the previous pavement was experiencing significant rutting related to the continuous starting and stopping of traffic. Traffic signal lights housed with camera detection will significantly reduce this pavement shoving and preserve the investment of the 2023 pavement upgrades.

"It's a situation where there's enough traffic to justify lights, but there's a lot more traffic on the [#13] highway, on First Avenue, than there is on 16th Street, so at certain times of day, sure, we need to have those lights change and so the traffic can happen for peak times commuters, that kind of stuff, I certainly drive through there every morning, but for most of the day and all of the night, I would argue that you don't really need to have the light stopping traffic on First Avenue," he commented. "So the cameras will keep an eye on both directions, and if there's a vehicle coming on First Ave, it'll let it right through. But if someone comes on 16th Street, it'll recognize that someone's there and it'll change the lights."

Janke said this is a common technology in larger cities, "quite often, sometimes with cameras, sometimes with pressure plates."

"Engineering and Jennifer have done a great job on making sure we have the right system for our city. With our climate, I'm a much bigger fan of the cameras than the pressure plates, because the plates tend to freeze up and don't work in the cold. So we wouldn't want that. The cameras are definitely the way to go," he noted. "The pressure plates are great technology, but the cameras are better for us."

He said he hopes to eventually see the camera-sensor traffic lights installed all along the major trade route of First Avenue, aka Highway 13. 

"If this works, I'm not going to make budget promises here, but hopefully at some point in the future we'll be able to put this technology onto the other lights on First Ave, so that we can have smooth traffic going all the time because of course, it really is the start and the stop and that's the hardest part of degradation on the roads." 

All of Weyburn's lights are currently on timers, and Janke pointed out that, "the funny thing about the timer lights in our city is that the whole rotation is only about 60 seconds. But when you're in a hurry and that light turns red at the wrong time, it feels like six hours."

During the discussion and prior to the approval, Janke suggested that Council informally refer to the traffic lights at First Avenue and 16th Street as 'Richard Michel Memorial lights', as an homage to the late City Councillor Dick Michel.

"We don't need to have ribbon-cutting or a plaque or anything, at least not yet, but Councillor Michel, just by virtue of his many years of experience, was something of a mentor to a lot of us, and we certainly miss his voice around the table," he explained. "If he was here tonight, he was very passionate about infrastructure, he was very passionate about four-way stops, and I'm positive he would have had something to say about replacing a four way stop with a light. So I wanted to at least make sure that that got recognized that his name was in the minutes." 

Whether Michel would have been for the lights or against them, Janke added that, "Just making these kind of decisions without giving a lot of thought, sometimes Dick would take the position to make sure it was well thought through, or sometimes he just wanted to have a good joke. If nothing else, apart from his experience, Dick's sense of humour is something we miss as well."