“I sure as heck wouldn’t want their job.”
West Kelowna Coun. Carol Zanon hasn’t been the only person to show concern for the safety of the the traffic control workers at the Nancee Way intersection.
Since Nov. 20, when a retaining wall collapsed on the Westside Road Interchange, traffic controllers have been on and around Highway 97, trying their best to direct—often frustrated—drivers while crews work to clean up and repair the failure.
But traffic control workers say they feel safe and, for the most part, drivers are obedient.
“It is a little hectic because of the traffic sometimes,” said Michael Williams, a traffic control worker.
“People need to read signs; that’s our biggest thing.”
Williams said there have been a few instances when drivers have been reluctant to follow directions of the flaggers.
“We get people that try and run the stop sign; we take down all those license plate numbers (then) call the police and tell them what happened.”
According to Williams, there haven’t been any serious incidents; however, his toes were the victim of one close call.
“I had one lady run over my foot, but it wasn’t serious.”
Kaelyn Fitzgerlad and Genessa Sewell, traffic control supervisors on the site, said that directing Nancee Way traffic isn’t the safest task they’ve ever been assigned to.
“This particular job, when it’s snowing, is one of the more dangerous ones,” said Fitzgerald.
On Dec. 13, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Blair Lekstrom met with District of West Kelowna council. Council brought up the safety of the traffic control workers and questioned whether or not it would be a safer option to erect a temporary set of traffic lights at the Nancee Way intersection.
“The light issue is one that (we’ve) looked at. At this point, it doesn’t seem to be in the cards,” said Lekstrom.
“We have the best trained flaggers in the country, if not North America. They do a very professional job.”
Williams agreed that he is well trained to do his job.
“You need a license to be a flagger. It’s a three day course. We have to keep (the license) on us at all times while we’re flagging.”
The three day course includes written work, reading and eight hours of practical work, according to Williams.
The traffic control workers taking care of the Nancee Way intersection are all from Black Top Traffic Control Ltd.
Fitzgerald and Sewell said that putting up a set of temporary traffic lights would “take too long,” and is probably unnecessary.
According to Fitzgerald, who has been with Black Top for nearly two years, the regular drivers that use the Nancee Way intersection have been very pleasant to interact with. Sewell, who has been with the company for six years, mentioned that some have even brought the workers coffee and cake.
“The ones that we deal with on a regular basis have been really good to us. They ask us questions all the time. They tell us that they’re thankful we’re here.”