Some South Shuswap residents think the upgrades to the intersection of Balmoral Road and the Trans-Canada Highway did not go far enough to provide good access to the community while fulfilling the goal of reducing collisions at the intersection.
Dena Short, a Blind Bay resident, said she is one of a small group of locals who have been meeting to discuss the changes made to the intersection. Short said the new traffic pattern which eliminated the ability for people to turn left into traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway fulfills the goal of reducing the number of accidents at the intersection. She thinks better access could be provided to the Blind Bay area.
Short said the local population and the amount of traffic going through the area have both increased dramatically in recent years.
She also believes the current traffic pattern, which relies on underpasses beneath the highway east of the main intersection to access the opposite side of the highway, could be confusing to visitors. She also doesn’t think it is ideal for residents who must now share the single-lane underpasses with farm equipment and transport trucks.
Over the winter, Short said she had a close call when a semi truck began sliding on some ice just as she was driving out of one of the underpasses.
“If I had been in the underpass, he couldn’t have stopped,” Short said.
“My heart was in my throat. I thought to myself, I’m not going that way anymore.”
Short said an underpass at the intersection or the widening of one of the existing underpasses would be an improvement to the situation. She and five or six other residents have taken action, including meeting with Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo in hopes of having improvements made at the intersection. Among those who discussed further improvements to the intersection was Terry Barker.
Both Barker and Short said either a new underpass at the Balmoral intersection or a widened underpass accessing the frontage road would have been an improvement.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, a new underpass at the Balmoral Intersection would likely cost between $30 and $50 million.
Barker approached a contractor who does major highway work. They put together a proposal suggesting that improvements to the underpass just east of the Balmoral intersection could be completed for approximately $3,023,000.
Barker said he thinks the intersection in its current state is a poor introduction to the area for tourists and less than ideal. He did acknowledge that the improvements that have already been made will cut down on the number of vehicle crash deaths at the intersection.
According to the ministry, it will be monitoring the new route using the underpasses and frontage roads in order to ensure it is still functioning safely. Staff are setting up traffic counting devices on the frontage road and have been patrolling the route to determine that the underpasses and maintenance in the area is adequate.