More than 250 people attended an open house in Enderby on Wednesday night to help answer a problem that locals are well acquainted with: how best to improve traffic flow through the city.
Staff from the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure invited the public to the Enderby Seniors Centre to view a number of different options for improving the efficiency and safety of Highway 97A, which runs through the heart of the city and carries more than 12,000 vehicles per day and as many as 17,000 in the summer.
Attendees were given feedback forms with which to voice their opinion on which course of action the ministry should take.
“There’s no way to not affect anyone, there’s always going to be impacts on people,” said Stephen Power of HDR, the consulting company that’s been hired for the project.
“We did look at four-laning the existing highway (but) there just isn’t enough room,” he explained.
“We would have to wipe out pretty much every property on one side of the roadway, so we’ve discounted that option because it just has too much impact, too much cost. So we’re now looking at some creative ways to get traffic through Enderby.”
Those creative options include shifting the highway to Vernon Street or the former rail corridor where there’s more space for four lanes, or designing couplets that would see two southbound lanes in the place of the existing highway and two northbound lanes on either Vernon Street or the rail corridor. In all there were seven different options for residents to consider.
“Really what we’re looking for is a way to get two lanes northbound, two lanes southbound, and there’s all kinds of combinations of ways we can do that,” said Power.
The cost and timeline of the project won’t be known until the Ministry decides on a direction informed by public feedback. The more immediate concern among some Enderby residents has to do with the potential effects the redesign will have on local businesses.
For John Fournier, who owns the D&E Diner on the current highway, there’s no option that will prevent all businesses in town from being hurt.
“The option I would choose would hurt someone else’s business,” he said. “I don’t think you can alleviate the fact that someone is going to suffer from these changes.”
Fournier says if he wasn’t a business owner he’d be fully on board with a plan to improve traffic flow – an opinion that many other residents expressed in earnest.
City Councillor Brian Schreiner said he was glad to see the level of public engagement on display.
“There’s a lot of traffic coming through our community and it’s not even the busy time of the year,” he said. “Obviously we need something, so it’s great to see a lot of our public out here.”
The open house came as part of the ministry’s Highway 97A – Enderby/Splatsin Transportation Study, which is currently in the planning stage.
Public workshops were held in Enderby and Splatsin in May to gather ideas and input on potential improvements.
According to the Enderby/Splatsin Transportation Plan developed in May, the highway is near capacity with very few gaps in traffic, making turns from side streets difficult, especially in the summer.
Making matters worse, traffic levels have been steadily rising since 2011 and are projected to rise to an average of almost 19,000 vehicles per day within the next 25 years.
For those who want to provide feedback but were unable to attend, the open house materials — including the display boards and feedback form — have be posted online at gov.bc.ca/highway97a-enderby-splastin-study. The survey will remain open until Nov. 15.