Plans are in the works to improve the dangerous intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and Balmoral Road in Tappen, but at least one resident is concerned about the long term.
Following another crash there on Feb. 26, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure stated in an email that it is looking at ways to improve the safety of the intersection.
“We have completed site surveys at this intersection and staff are studying the data and assessing options for potential safety improvements,” states the email. “Once options have been identified this spring, the ministry will share them with the community for feedback before selecting an option to move forward.”
Although up-to-date statistics were not available, ICBC has made public crash data available throughout the province for the five years from 2013 to 2017. During that time, 12 crashes are reported for that intersection.
Jordie Wiens, who has owned the Balmoral Store for the past year-and-a-half and has a front-row view of the site, said the figure seems low. He says he is aware of at least four crashes this year, which can be very traumatic for staff.
“At the store, you hear that bang and you think, there’s another one. I’ve had to use my jacket to cover up more than one person.”
Wiens said he is on the South Shuswap Chamber of Commerce and they have been advocating heavily for the past eight months for improvements. He said they have been assured something will be done before summer, which leaves him with mixed feelings.
What he’s heard so far will save lives and make the intersection safer, and he’s for it. However, he sees it as a temporary fix, which will be inadequate and harmful to the community if it remains in the long term.
He says the plans he’s heard involve having all vehicles go through the underpass, about half a kilometre east of Balmoral Store or down the frontage road to Carlin. He said vehicles would no longer be permitted to make left turns onto the highway from either side of the intersection, nor would driving across the highway be allowed.
He contends the underpass is not to the standard it needs to be to handle the traffic flow, nor would the increased traffic on winding, narrow Blind Bay Road or Golf Course Drive be a safe alternative.
If this plan goes ahead and becomes the long-term solution, Wiens says, he also sees it greatly inconveniencing the local population and hurting tourism, including his store. He would like to see an interchange in the long term.
“I would be 100 per cent behind them if they said we’re doing this because we have to do something, and we’re going to get get going on… something permanent in the near future.”
Meanwhile, the ministry email says that once options have been identified, public feedback will be gathered before selecting a plan.