As the leaves turn colour and float down onto Ellis Street next fall, they may escape being ground into the pavement by a cavalcade of semi-trucks.
On Monday, city council supported a staff report that called for an end to heavy truck traffic along Ellis Street, the heart of Kelowna’s cultural district.
The street is currently open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 400 trucks rumble down it per day, much to the chagrin of business owners and residents in the area, who have been writing letters and organizing petitions expressing their displeasure about the practice for years.
Now city staff is onboard with the heavy truck ban, pointing out that it’s at odds with the downtown plan. Gordon Drive, they say, is already a truck route, and there’s no reason it can’t carry a heavier load of traffic in the future.
“It is understood that as the downtown develops and the residential population and pedestrian traffic increases along this corridor, the truck route will conflict with the changing urban land use in this part of the downtown,” said Brian Oliveira, a city engineering traffic technician.
“In February 2012, city council endorsed the downtown plan. The plan focuses on making downtown Kelowna unique, thriving, prosperous and livable. Some of the priorities outlined in the action plan include making downtown more pedestrian-friendly, increasing activity downtown, and increasing the number of residents in a compact, livable, mixed-use urban setting. The desire to remove trucks from Ellis Street was noted by many participants of the downtown urban design charette held in the summer of 2012.”
A number of councillors also shared that desire.
“I think it’s time and I think we have to do whatever upgrades are needed on Gordon, but a major truck route in your arts, entertainment and residential area doesn’t make any sense,” said Coun. Andre Blanleil.
Coun. Robert Hobson agreed. “It’s an appropriate time to move it out of downtown,” he said. “We’re creating a great urban centre…if you want people to live there, then you don’t want big trucks rumbling through there—that’s kind of scary.”
The plan is not without hitches, however.
Neighbourhood groups as well as the ministry of transportation will have a chance to weigh in on the changes before they’re set in asphalt.
Some concerns that are expected to emerge is whether or not heavy truck traffic turning onto the new route a few blocks later will bung up traffic coming off the bridge, and whether there will be an intolerable amount of heavy truck traffic displaced surrounding residential areas.
The soonest the truck route closure could occur is next year.