Public opinion has been positive, if not enthusiastic, regarding the province’s proposed solutions to the problematic Highway 1 and Balmoral Road intersection.
At an open house meeting in June, representatives of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure provided information on problems with the intersection near Blind Bay and solicited input on their plans to fix them.
In order to mitigate risks at the intersection, which has been the site of more than one fatal collision, the ministry presented a pair of possible solutions, both of which would stop vehicles from crossing all four lanes of the Trans-Canada Highway at the intersection.
According to ministry figures, T-bone collisions account for 70 per cent of crashes that have caused injuries or fatalities at Balmoral since 2008.
Presentation materials delivered by the ministry at the open house indicate the ministry’s preferred option is a traffic pattern change that would prevent motorists from driving across the intersection and turning left onto the highway. With the proposed revision, drivers would still be able to turn left off the highway onto Balmoral Road and turn right both on and off the highway as they are able to now. Those wanting to access the other side of the highway, or who would currently turn left to travel east on the highway, would have to utilize the White Creek or Cedar Drive underpasses.
The other option presented would completely halt left turns onto and off of the highway using barricades. The underpasses would be used in this option as well.
Lynn Ewart, President of the South Shuswap Chamber of Commerce, said she is very happy the ministry has listened to concerns from locals and decided to do something about the intersection, but she is not sure how effective either of the proposed changes will be.
The ministry told those in attendance at the June 26 open house that the underpasses are safe and would be able to accommodate large trucks. Ewart said use of the underpasses seems to be the only option offered by the ministry.
“It’s been an ongoing interest of the chamber to try to get some safety there; even if it had been a traffic light we would have liked that as well, but they won’t even consider that, nevermind a real underpass,” she said.
The ministry stated a traffic light would increase rear-end crashes, and waiting for the light to turn green would be no faster than using the nearby underpass. Nor would it be as safe.
At least initially, Ewart said routing the traffic through the underpasses will be hard for people to get used to. But she added the ministry has pledged to put up signage to help people. She also said the ministry was receptive to working to fine-tune the traffic pattern at the Balmoral intersection.
Paul Demenok, the CSRD director representing the South Shuswap, said he thinks the ministry has taken positive steps to improve safety and the benefit of their plan is that it can be realized quickly and relatively inexpensively.
“It’s not the ideal solution, but it’s a step in the right direction,” he said.
The ministry expects construction/improvements to start and finish this fall, regardless of what option is chosen. Travel on the highway is expected to be impacted for the course of an eight- to 12-week construction process. According to the ministry, there will be times where traffic is reduced to a single lane in each direction and delays of up to 20 minutes are possible.