Has Rimbey outgrown itself?

As the current global economic crisis continues to permeate through virtually every country, city and town on the planet resulting in unprecedented job loss numbers not seen since the Great Depression, one would have to believe that Rimbey for the most part, has come away nearly unscathed and continues to be a bustling little community, at least that’s the way it may seem if you’re trying to back out of one of those angled parking spots on the main street, and especially if you’re trying to do it on any given weekday.

Be it a Monday morning or a Friday afternoon, it seems that whenever one is trying to back out, there is a long stream of traffic awaiting making a very tricky maneuver without causing a collision, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing because unlike a lot of other towns of this size, at least we’ve still got plenty of traffic.

Due to the geographical layout of Rimbey and thousands of other smaller communities around the world, we have the one true thoroughfare – that being 50th Avenue; better know as main street, and as a result, have a concentration of many businesses located in a short –two-block span from 49th Street to 51st Street resulting in the omni-present bottleneck of traffic as residents and visitors alike go about their day-to-day business.

However there’s really no one to blame for it if, in fact, there’s any blame to be doled out in the first place.

After all, one certainly can’t point the finger at the Town. With the crosswalks clearly visible at the 50/50 corner (50th Street/50th Avenue), complete with overhead warning lights, and the four-way stop located one block further west, there’s little more that can be done to alleviate traffic snarls in the downtown core.

Further, the expense of traffic lights anywhere on the main street simply cannot be justified given their casts and the fact that one-lane streets in either directions simply do not allow for enough traffic flow to warrant lights.

There’s no common sense in eliminating the angle-parking either because despite the hazards and frustrations of trying to pull out in particularly busy periods of the day, angle-parking is the most efficient in terms of the number of vehicles versus the amount of space available.

In other words, if the public can’t angle-park on main street, where else – within walking distance, is there to park?

On top of that, is the fact that most or all of the businesses located in the core area are highly dependent on all their customers including visitors and those who drive downtown.

In the case locally – which reflects just about every other town of Rimbey’s size, the main street contains most of the professional offices, the Town offices, library, bars restaurants, retail outlets and a host of other shops and stores.

And while the Town administration may be looking down the road at possible solutions, the timing might be near-perfect to consider freeing up some much needed traffic space on the community’s main thoroughfare by severely limiting the number of large semi-truck trailers passing through, or banning them altogether.

With both the provincial and federal governments ready and willing to part with hundreds of millions of dollars – especially the feds, to kick-start the economy through infra-structure work like building roads, bridges and a host of other mega-projects, perhaps the Town, possibly in conjunction with the County, may want to consider government grants and loans for a similar-sized project right here that would both create many jobs while securing the long-term health of Rimbey’s downtown area.

If the money is available, wouldn’t it make a whole lot of sense to extend the intersection where Highway 20 from Bentley meets up with Highway 20 heading for points like Bluffton and Winfield just north of Rimbey, and continue that highway westward past the new sub-division then turn southward to hook up with Highway 53 heading to Drayton Valley and Rocky Mountain House on the west side of the hospital in the location of the old golf course?

That way, all those huge trucks that are constantly driving through the community with little more intent than getting to Highway 20, will have an easy bypass on the outskirts that is sure to free up plenty of room downtown for the shoppers and visitors.

Further, if the Town really wanted to play hardball after the bypass was completed, they could impose strict bylaws regulating the movement of large trucks through the community and would also give them the power to issue considerable fines those in violation.

It may also help out both levels of government as well. On the national side of things, the federals government would probably be thrilled at the prospects of making a significant impact in rural Canada while the provincial government can show residents in the area what their new Bill-19 is really intended for.

According to Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ray Prins, the Bill is designed for more long-term planning such as new ring roads around Alberta’s biggest cities, a possible high-speed train between those very same cities and other work necessary in the years and decades ahead. In fact in many cases, Prins said the Bill is looking 20 or 30 or even 50 years down the road.

And while that certainly won’t address the immediate needs of unclogging Rimbey’s downtown core anytime soon, perhaps if all those hundreds of millions of dollars haven’t been committed to other projects already, we just might be able to get in on it while the getting’s still good.

If however, it ends up being one of those ‘far off in the distance’ types of outcomes where we’ll have to wait for the economy to fully recover before considering such a big project, then we’ll all have to continue to put up with the bottlenecks and excessive traffic in the downtown area which, in light of what’s going in virtually everywhere else on the globe, isn’t necessarily such a bad thing after all.