February 28th, 2024

City eyes emergency access route for Saamis neighbourhood

By COLLIN GALLANT on June 16, 2023.

Fire crews block both directions of Sierra Boulevard on the afternoon of Sept. 28, 2020 in order to run water lines from a hydrant and battle a house fire on Sunrise Court through the property's back yard. The event re-ignited discussion about access to the community which currently has just one road in and out.--News File Photo Collin Gallant

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

An emergency access route for residents of the southwest community of Saamis is being proposed to alleviate fears of being cut off from the one-way-one-way-out area.

The issue has lingered for more than a decade in the community – accessible only via the intersection of Sierra Boulevard at Southridge Drive.

But it could be tackled with $250,000 in work to formalize an emergency motor route over a city pathway, administrators said at Thursday’s meeting of the energy and infrastructure committee.

Currently, in case the intersection is shut down, emergency vehicles have access to the community by driving across a pathway and utility right of way in the southeast corner of the community from Southridge Drive. That joins Sierra Road, a residential street, 100 metres from the main road, and is the recommended option from planners.

“It was intended to be emergency-access vehicle only, so it’s only one lane,” said Pat Bohan, director of city surface assets and transportation network.

“Conversations from the community led us to look at having two-way access … and the least expensive turned out to be the fastest, least intrusive solution.”

The Saamis and Saamis Heights community was designed and built in the early 2000s by the city’s land department with Sierra Boulevard as the main access point.

At the time, the Cimmaron private-sector development to the south, led by local developer Medican, was to be built on land south of Saamis. The proposed main road would be an extension of Sierra Boulevard back to Southridge Drive, thereby creating a loop.

It never materialized however, as the development was sold and the new owner declared bankruptcy, and Saamis residents were left with a single in-out option.

In late 2020, the road was shut off for an afternoon as fire crews ran hoses across it to battle a house fire.

“There’s a lot of consternation about this over the years,” said chair Coun. Alison Van Dyke, who once lived near the area and said residents have a right to be concerned. “I’m glad we’re addressing it.”

Over the years city administrators responded to complaints that completing the second entrance would cost $10 million or more and needed to be built on land they didn’t own. As well, the land was tied up in court, and pushing forward with the road might potentially trip up a future developer’s design.

Bohan said new options numbered three.

Another option considered was to join the same pathway to Sierra Boulevard, which ends in a bulb at the pathway halfway across the community.

Another would be to provide access from the west and the Coulee Ridge development, or complete the collector road proposed in the Cimmaron area plan put forward by Medican.

Cost estimates were not provided in background information, which states the shorter path access option was the least expensive, did not require land acquisition, or come into conflict with utility lines or potential development to the south.

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