- Our Town
Downtown highway signal swap unlikely
No substantial, traffic-altering changes will occur downtown along the Trans-Canada Highway without a buy-in from city council.
A series of four recommendations from the Trans-Canada Highway Corridor Safety Study Working Group was presented to council Monday. They include the installation, of pedestrian countdown timers, installation of access awareness measures such as coloured crosswalks and a city centre gateway, miscellaneous improvements including crosswalks and lighting and the completion of an updated Downtown Transportation Study.
Engineering and public works director Rob Niewenhuizen said the countdown timers could be funded by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) and ICBC, while the access awareness measures would require more discussion by the working group.
All of the recommended improvements will be included in the 2014 budget for council’s consideration.
The working group’s suggestions, and the group itself, stem from a larger list of recommendations in a TCH corridor safety study conducted by MOTI and ICBC. These included a recommendation to move the signal-lit intersection at Ross Street to Fourth Street and restricting turns on Ross, proposals disparaged by organizations representing downtown businesses. But Coun. Alan Harrison, a member of the working group, said he doesn’t see any major changes occurring without council’s endorsement.
Harrison explained the MOTI/ICBC study was done as a result of council’s interest in having an intersection safety camera installed at the Alexander/TCH intersection, so as to slow down commercial truck traffic while making it safer for pedestrians and local traffic to cross the highway.
The ministry was not supportive, arguing a camera would slow traffic down and result in more rear-end collisions. The study was recommended to find alternative efficiencies/improvements.
Harrison said because other significant changes in the study hinged on shifting traffic lights from Ross to Fourth, local input was sought and received from Downtown Salmon Arm, the chamber, the Downtown Parking Committee and the Economic Development Society. All were critical of the move. Subsequently, there was a split within the working group between those representing the province and those with more local interests.
“The reason I think it was split was because MOTI wants to move traffic through the highway corridor as quickly and as safely as possible – that’s what they do,” said Harrison. “And locally, we want to slow traffic down on the highway corridor, to make it safe for pedestrians and local traffic crossing the Trans-Canada Highway, and of course we want to encourage traffic to turn into the downtown. So there’s a difference in philosophy here.”
Regarding the four recommendations that are being forwarded for budget consideration, Harrison suggested the Downtown Transportation Study would be more valuable after an underpass is completed.
Coun. Denise Reimer thanked Harrison for his efforts, and for clarifying the study was initiated not by the city but by the province.
Reflecting on the traffic intersection camera, Coun. Chad Eliason suggested council should pick its battles with MOTI, such as advocating for a replacement for the Salmon River Bridge.