Long time paramedic Steven Rupp voices his support for option two of the ministry’s plan to reconstruct the Toop intersection with direct access to the hospital via Johnson Street

Long time paramedic Steven Rupp voices his support for option two of the ministry’s plan to reconstruct the Toop intersection with direct access to the hospital via Johnson Street

Highway development at crossroads

If city council wanted community feedback on proposed intersection changes to Highway 97 it got its wish.

If city council wanted community feedback on proposed intersection changes to Highway 97 it got its wish.

Of the more than 100 people who attended an information meeting at the Gibraltar Room hosted by the city and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, many people spoke against removing lights at Carson.

Some were against spending millions on lights at Toop, several opposed making Johnson Street an extension of the turn off from a Toop Road intersection, while others advocated making Johnson the ambulance route.

Tyler Hamm said if the upgrade is a safety measure it doesn’t seem that a lot is changing other than the location of the lights.

“Instead of going to $22 million worth of work, why not put up some cement barricades to eliminate the left hand turn onto Toop Road southbound on the highway and the left hand turn northbound,” Hamm said. The lights don’t have to be moved from Carson Drive, they are safe where they are at, he added.

“Stopping traffic from going left is probably the main source of accidents.”

Responding Ed Wnuk, Ministry of Transportation, said putting signals at Toop Road has other advantages.

“One of them is that it will slow traffic coming into the city southbound before it gets to Carson,” he said.

Sharon Smith, who recently retired from working in local schools, opposed removing the lights at Carson and said many new drivers will be using Carson to commute to and from school.

“I would like to see a left turn signal at Carson so that people can turn on the signal rather than just estimate when traffic is coming,” Smith said.

Eddie Ballarn from MOT said the signal is not warranted based on traffic volumes and the lights at Toop would give Carson more gap time because it would keep traffic back at the lights.

Paramedic Steven Rupp, however, said he preferred Option 2 because lights at Toop, with an ambulance route to the hospital going directly down Johnson Street, is a safer option for paramedics and clients.

“On the average we used that intersection and access to the hospital 4,000 times a year, plus Alexis Creek, Anaham, Quesnel and Ashcroft all use the hospital for medi-vacs,” he said.

Resident Nigel Whitehead agreed and said anything to improve the time for ambulances would be ideal.

“I know there’s a lot of concern about more traffic on Johnson, but I think if it would create time savings for more people it would be better,” Whitehead said.

Johnson Street resident Connie Corlass said the “huge” number of people who use Carson would switch to using Johnson.

“Fine for the ambulance, but what about all those other cars that will now come down to that T at the hospital and are either going to go down through that twisty turning school zone to get into town or some convoluted way over to Pigeon Avenue,” Corlass said.

Goodall said those might be reasons for people not to choose the Johnson Street route because once they get to the bottom it isn’t a good route to get to downtown.

“You may find that people don’t actually use it but will continue to use Carson as the main street,” Goodall said.

Responding to concerns about the driveways for the Cedar Court town houses at Johnson and 10th Avenue, Ballarn said they would not be eliminated.

“We will still be able to maintain them on Johnson,” Ballarn said.

Ninth Avenue resident John Moon said ambulances have had no problems getting to the hospital using Ninth Avenue.

“The time difference between the two options would be at the most 15 seconds,” Moon said, adding that hardly warrants the impacts on Johnson Street.

Last month Moon presented city council with a petition with 300 signatures opposing tying Johnson Street into the Toop Road intersection.

“We will be asking council to endorse option one,” Moon said of the local residents.

Heather Awmack lives near 11th Avenue and asked about property acquisition because her property backs up to the highway and could be impacted if that section is made wider with four lanes.

Project manager Lisa Miller said once project’s design is finalized, MOT will identify how many properties will be affected and what size.

“Then we’ll have a property co-ordinator who will contact the property owners on a one-on-one basis,” Miller said.

The city has installed traffic counters on Carson and Johnson and will share the statistics in a few weeks, Goodall said.

City chief executive officer Darrell Garceau said city staff along with MOT staff will prepare a report based on feedback from the community on how the project should move forward and present it to city council.

Of the estimated $22 to $24 million project cost, the city’s portion would be around $4 million, Goodall said.