The road may be paved with good intentions, but Trans-Canada Highway improvement plans for Salmon Arm aren’t gaining traction with everyone.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) revealed the latest plans for public viewing and input last Wednesday at the Prestige Harbourfront Report.
Several politicians gave the project a big thumbs up, but Brad DeMille calls it a death knell for his business that will no longer be directly on the highway.
Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo said he appreciates change is difficult and stressed the importance of working collaboratively to find the “happy medium” that will help local businesses while improving traffic flow and safety.
“I am extremely proud the province is making this commitment to improve safety and transportation networks through the region,” he said of the $120 million project. “It is the largest single infrastructure spending in the history of Salmon Arm.”
The project will begin with pre-loading the site of a new elevated bridge, which will be built north of the current highway and connect back to the current highway at 10th Street SW, says project manager Dave Shibata.
“We’re still waiting for the geotechnical report,” said Shibata Friday. “We suspect it will be soft soil, so it will have be pre-loaded and that can take anywhere from 10 to 20 months.”
Shibata says preloading will begin in 2016 and once the site is suitable for bridge construction, projects will be tendered through BC Bids.
The first part of the project includes the replacement of the Salmon River Bridge, addition of a frontage road to Salmon River Road via two roundabouts – one on either side of the highway – and frontage roads connecting Pedro’s and De Milles and running to 30th Avenue SW.
Down the road, the second part of the project will take place between 30th Street SW to 10th Street SW. It will involve realigning the 10th Avenue SW intersection – moving it east and creating a frontage road on the north side of highway connecting to 25th Street SW.
On the south side, a frontage road will connect to 30th Street SW, access will be improved to First Nations land on 15th Street SW and improvements will be made to the 10th Street intersection.
“We’re working with Adams Lake Indian Band and are beginning the acquisition of properties,” said Shibata. “I can’t say when it will happen. There are quite a few properties, but we’re hoping to tender it in 2017.”
The third part of the project includes a section of the TCH between the western border of Neskonlith Band lands to First Avenue SW. It involves four-laning the highway and the potential for connection to First Nations Road through an underpass, as well as two pedestrian underpasses.
“We’re in consultation with the Neskonlith,” said Shibata. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”
Overall, the project includes intersection improvements, four-laning, adding sidewalks and frontage roads and improving and connecting walking and biking trails.
Murray Tekano, MOTI’s district manager for the Southern Interior says the project focuses on improving safety, reliability and access as Salmon Arm’s population continues to grow.
He says he heard a lot of positive feedback at the open house that attracted well over 200 people.
“That speaks to how important the community views these improvements,” he said, noting MOTI officials have listened to concerns, producing much-improved plans and that he expects some tweaking as public input and stakeholder discussions continue.
A simulated “fly-over” of the project put the scene in motion and was much appreciated by attendees.
“I like the new plan; I am excited about it,” said Mayor Nancy Cooper, after viewing the fly-over. “I like the old highway being access to DeMille’s and the trails. It’s a huge safety thing.”
Coun. Kevin Flynn was impressed by the “significantly improved” plans.
“I have been on council for 10 years and every year we ask for a new bridge,” he said. “It finally looks like Salmon Arm is getting closer to a safer, better, more efficient solution to the issues west of town.”
Brad DeMille disagrees. He says his father, Rodger DeMille, donated land along the TCH to allow for two-laning of the highway and replacement of the current wooden bridge.
“They changed their plan largely because of my input; the original design was horrible,” he said. “The new design is better but we’re still gonna die – just a little bit more slowly.”
DeMille says 20 per cent of his business is from new patrons, who stop because they are attracted by what’s happening at his business. He says an elevated bridge farther away from his farm will kill that portion of his business. DeMille says his 60 employees and the 30 to 40 B.C. Interior farmers he buys from will also suffer.
Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce president Jim Kimmerly pointed out that the current highway will remain open while construction takes place on the new section and bridge.
“This was the fourth plan we’ve seen and this one is better than the other three,” he says, noting DeMille’s and Pedro’s are destination businesses for many area residents but signage will be critical in alerting tourists to them.