The Town of Banff is kicking off a new traffic-improvement project with public information sessions about the addition of an express bus lane and multi-use trail on Mountain Ave.
Banff Town Council has a priority to reduce the use of personal vehicles on the community’s limited roadways and parking spaces, and this project, scheduled for construction in 2024, will address congestion on Mountain Avenue caused mainly by visitors heading to the popular tourist destinations on Sulphur Mountain.
The project will add a bus-only express lane in the downhill, northbound direction for Roam Transit and other coaches and tour buses, between the town boundary just past Middle Springs Drive to Spray Avenue. The express lane will incentivize more visitors to leave their vehicles parked downtown, at campsites or in hotel parking, and take the gondola shuttle or Roam Transit. Reducing vehicles on the road will reduce traffic congestion for people who need to drive.
The project also adds an enhanced multi-use trail to provide a safer connection between Spray Avenue and neighbourhoods adjacent to Mountain Ave. Cyclists heading downhill may choose to use the trail or the express bus lane.
“Traffic congestion along Mountain Ave. has become a serious summer problem for the town for a number of years, mainly due to visitors who drive to the gondola and hot springs and find the parking lots full, then have to turn around and head back downtown, causing unnecessary traffic volumes,” said Brennan David, engineering manager for the project.
“Even though traffic delays on Mountain Ave. have become shorter in recent years due to our traffic mitigation efforts downtown, visitor traffic overall to the town is expected to increase by about 2% every year, and this project will be important to divert visitor vehicles by prioritizing transit and coaches going through town to these popular destinations.”
The town is less than 4 square-kilometres in area and has not changed since incorporation in 1990. The road network is already at capacity in summer months, and the Town’s strategy is to reduce private vehicle use rather than inducing more vehicle travel, which would occur if more road space was added for personal vehicles.
The improved multi-use trail will support more residents who choose to travel by bicycle, e-bike, or walk, rather than driving.
The project will also add two crosswalks to safely connect residents from Valleyview to the multi-use trail on the uphill/southbound side of Mountain Ave., one at the upper Park Avenue intersection and a second near Kootenay Ave. Lighting will be added to one cross walk as well as at the existing crosswalk at the lower Park Avenue intersection.
The dedicated bus lane and enhanced trail will be added by expanding asphalt in several areas on existing public land that is reserved for roads and utilities; no private property will be affected. No parking exists along Mountain Ave.
The construction project budget of $1.5 million will be finalized this December. In 2022, Council approved funding of $620,000 from the federal Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program and $930,000 split between Visitor Pay Parking revenue and existing overlay budget from Capital Reserves.
The express bus lane will be identified with signage and painted lane markings and Municipal Enforcement will monitor to determine if enhanced enforcement would be required.
Public input in 2022 on a proposal to add an express bus lane on Spray Avenue identified the Mountain Avenue bus lane as a preferred project due to the impact on the heavier traffic departing Sulphur Mountain parking lots and because the Spray Avenue project would have removed parking.
The Town’s traffic data shows that up to 40% of vehicles that travel up Mountain Ave. in peak summer months are turned back at full parking lots on Sulphur Mountain. The gondola offers free shuttle buses from five locations in town and Roam Transit offers free transit to riders with pre-purchased gondola tickets.
Learn more about the project, the in-person meetings and the registration for the Aug. 23 online session at banffviewpoints.ca/MountainExpress