If the rubber hits the road as planned, changes to the Trans-Canada Highway downtown intended to improve safety will be completed this summer.
The biggest change to the highway corridor will be relocating the traffic signals at Ross Street to Fourth Street NE (by the downtown Tim Hortons).
Other changes include restricting access at Sixth Street (by McGuire Lake), Ross Street (by KFC) and McLeod Street NE (by the art gallery), and adding advanced left turns into and out of the downtown at Shuswap Street and Fourth Street NE.
A majority of council has given the okay to move forward with the improvements which were outlined in a 2013 highway corridor safety study. One stipulation from the city is that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure agrees to permit the installation of gateway signage and speed reader signs to the east and west of the downtown core.
City engineer Rob Niewenhuizen reported to council on Jan. 28 that the ministry has agreed verbally to allow those additions but they would be at the city’s expense.
The city would also like the ministry to review the possibility of installing a red light camera at the intersection of Alexander Street and the highway one year after the improvements are complete.
Niewenhuizen reported that the ministry intends to complete the work this summer, with much of it being done in the evenings to limit the impact to the traffic flows along the TCH and into the downtown core.
Phase 1 of the improvements – Alexander Avenue to Sixth Street – is estimated at $250,000, with the city paying $88,000, ICBC $75,000 and MOTI picking up the remainder.
For Phase II, the estimated cost is $330,000, with the city’s share just $30,000.
Niewenhuizen stated that while nothing is perfect, staff believe the changes will best address traffic movements from the “growth areas” of the city.
“City staff believe the addition of the advanced left turn movements to be the most beneficial of the improvements for both safety and traffic flow through the downtown core… Most importantly, the advanced lefts will help eliminate the pedestrian and cyclist incidents and near misses regularly reported at the intersection of Shuswap Street and the TCH and, together with restricting movements at non-signalized intersections, significantly improve safety throughout the corridor.”
He said with the current configuration, the lights are too close, which can create issues with visibility and stopping distance. The improvements will spread them out.
Coun. Chad Eliason was alone in voting against the plan.
“I think we can do a better job of negotiating with the wonderful folks at the ministry,” he remarked, adding that access to the downtown core is essential.
“Ross Street access and the weird access by the Jade Buffet are important ones. Left and right to those are very important for people. I don’t agree with everything we’re giving up for the perceived ‘get’.”
Coun. Kevin Flynn said he thinks it could be argued the city is getting more, better and safer access to the downtown, noting that city staff and traffic engineers think it’s a significant improvement for the corridor.
Other council members agreed. Coun. Tim Lavery noted safety is the top priority and this plan is a significant improvement, while Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond said council has given it much consideration during this term and last.
“Accesses are changing, but I can’t fully say they’re being lost.”