Council to decide Tuesday on highway improvements

Williams Lake City Council is scheduled to make a decision Tuesday on whether to move ahead to the Highway 97 detailed design phase.

Whether the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure should proceed with detailed designs for upgrades to Highway 97 in Williams Lake will be decided by city council next Tuesday.

Last Tuesday at its committee of the whole meeting council received a report from staff about the proposed new signalized highway intersection at Toop Road and improvements made to the design by the MOTI.

If the new intersection was developed, drivers heading west off the highway at Toop would have the choice to turn onto McKinnon Road or 11th Avenue.

And with the main intersection relocating, the lights would be removed at the Carson Drive intersection.

Vehicles travelling up Carson would exit left along McKinnon Road or right onto the highway. Vehicles travelling north on Highway 97, wanting to turn left on Carson, would enter a meridian-protected lane. People wanting to enter the highway from Broadway Avenue would travel up to the Toop intersection.

“Other refinements include installing further pedestrian improvements such as sidewalks, retaining the current Broadway Avenue alignment, and constructing a bike path near North Broadway Avenue,” the city said in a press release Wednesday.

In the report, staff said a citizens committee concept involving an overpass, underpass and roundabouts at Toop was reviewed by the MOTI, but not recommended.

“While it provides enhanced safety and mobility on the highway, it has a number of significant impacts,” the report noted. Some of the impacts cited included grade problems and larger number of property acquisitions required to accommodate the roundabouts.

“A previous design incorporating the use of roundabouts had been considered and rejected during project development in recent years,” the city said.

Citizen committee members said Wednesday they disagreed with the ministry’s findings and said whoever reviewed the concept was “shooting in the dark.”

“There were no phone calls or contact from the city back to us, or contact from the ministry back to us,” John Moon said. “They didn’t really know what the proposal was because they had not spoken to us.”

Pointing to a concept photograph developed by the ministry for the proposed roundabout, Moon said its octopus legs take up half the area and with an acceleration lane that ends up down past the Fraser Inn.

“Are they landing airplanes or what are they doing?”  he asked.

Committee member Shel Myers said the Kelowna roundabout used as an example for the concept design is identical to the Toop Road area.

When consulted, a senior traffic engineer at an engineering firm told the committee roundabouts are developed to suit the traffic volumes and sizing of trucks to balance the two.

“If indeed the ministry was really interested in the concept then there’s a balancing of alternatives,” Moon said.

Critical of the process to date, Moon said there hasn’t been a “real dialogue to address the community’s needs.”

The committee said they became involved when it was suggested the lights be removed at Carson.

“Our concept has become the focus, but what we really don’t want is to see the lights removed at Carson,” Myers said. “It’s a high volume traffic area. We don’t want to see it unlit and uncontrolled.”

Committee member Gord Stevenson said the group’s focus for the last two months has been to try to convince the city it needs an independent traffic engineer to study the city and highway layout and what roads will be involved.

“When we started looking at the proposed option one as citizens we realized it’s going to be a serious intersection with congestion and the possibility of more accidents,” Stevenson said.

“There have to be other options, that’s all we’ve been trying to get the city to look at,” he said.