Letter: Upper Mission traffic morning bottleneck

Does the City of Kelowna have a plan for Upper Mission school traffic problems?

Open letter to the City of Kelowna:

As a resident of the Upper Mission neighbourhood for 10 years, I am frustrated by the worsening traffic situation coming out of my neighbourhood on school days. When it takes over 20 minutes to drive the first two kilometers away from your home during the morning commute, it is a good indication that there is a legitimate problem the City of Kelowna needs to address.

Fred Wollin (traffic operations supervisor at the City of Kelowna), was quoted recently in the media saying, “People just need to leave a minute earlier. It’s a minor impact and it is funny how most of the comments are from the Mission area. We have those two roads that get congested and most of the people in that area drive or leave at the same time.”

Is that the best solution that a well-paid public servant of the City of Kelowna can offer to exasperated residents? Sure, in a perfect world, everyone just leaves a minute earlier — which I suspect would only cause the traffic back-up to start a minute earlier as well. Like most taxpaying residents of the Upper Mission, I live in a not-so-perfect world where life and kids don’t always co-operate in the mornings. Getting everyone out of bed, dressed, groomed, fed and loaded into the vehicle on time (or earlier) for work/school/daycare is a monumental feat. With winter around the corner, frost and snow on vehicles and roads will just add to that challenge.

To be clear, I’m not arguing against the recent expansion of school-zone hours (safety of children is a priority), but like most residents of the Upper Mission, I want to know what the city plans to do in order to address this long-standing and deteriorating problem. The Upper Mission neighbourhood generates a substantial amount of revenue for Kelowna every year through property taxes and development fees from the countless new homes that the city is permitting in the area. The city recently spent millions of dollars upgrading Lakeshore Road around Anne McClymont School with new sidewalks, bike lanes, street lighting, curb, gutters and other items. While this all looks great, now that the project is complete, none of those things improved traffic flow in any way.

There are thousands of residents already living in the Upper Mission and many more are added every year as all those new homes are occupied. The entire area is currently serviced by two roads (Lakeshore Road and Gordon Drive). Both of these roads are single-lane in each direction and both have school zones at the bottom. My wife unexpectedly went into labour at 8 o’clock in the morning on a Thursday in early June a couple years ago. As usual, traffic was at a standstill and backed-up all the way up the hill on both Gordon and Lakeshore. I had to resort to turning on my hazard lights, driving up the centre median on Gordon and even ducking into the oncoming traffic lane at times. Luckily, we managed to make it to the hospital without incident and with about five minutes to spare before the baby was born.

Does the city have any better suggestions regarding how to handle medical emergencies out of the Upper Mission other than recommending that residents plan to have their emergencies strike earlier in the morning? What is the city doing to actually solve the Upper Mission traffic problems and what is the timeline for doing so? I’ve been hearing about the proposed South Perimeter Road for years, however, the city’s website hasn’t provided any useful updates in a while. The status of this project is shown as ‘currently in preliminary design’ which has been the case for quite some time now.

Eric Fleury, Kelowna