Lantzville wants the provincial government to install electronic signs capable of providing travel times and road conditions along the Island Highway.
At a council meeting on Oct. 21, Lantzville councillors voted in favour of a motion directing staff to submit a formal request with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to investigate installing the signs on Highway 19, near Aulds Road in Nanaimo and south of Parksville near Northwest Bay Road.
The motion also asks for the ministry to provide councillors with safety data for Lantzville’s stretch of Highway 19, including the number of collisions, frequency of collisions per year and their severity.
Council’s decision comes after the ministry responded to council’s request that the province formulate a traffic management plan for the district when the highway is closed and carry out a review to address safety concerns.
According to a letter dated Oct. 8, the Ministry of Transportation said it would “be more than happy” to go over its traffic management plan for Highway 19 with the District of Lantzville and to “work more closely” with the municipality on detour plans.
In the letter, the ministry said that in the event of an incident which “results in the long closure” of Highway 19, its traffic plan calls for the use of a gate that is installed with a “median barrier” at a rest area near Nanoose Bay, allowing traffic to cross over onto the opposite side of the highway.
Coun. Karen Proctor, who made the motion, told councillors she was happy with the response from the province but believes the ministry should look into installing electronic signage.
“I think that would help ease congestion when the highway is closed down,” she said.
Proctor also said council needs to be able to see the traffic management plan before making additional decisions.
“I know that they provided us with some reports, traffic safety reports and the most recent one they provided us with is a draft from 2016, which had data from 2011 to 2014 included in it and that data is way too old for us to use to analyze what is happening at these intersections,” she said.
Proctor’s motion is a good idea and the recommendations are needed, said Coun. Jamie Wilson, adding that he spent an hour directing traffic off his property in the summer following an accident.
“They couldn’t turn around at the end of Superior Road,” he said. “There may be a plan but I feel that the action that we are taking with this would enforce that.”
Coun. Will Geselbracht said Lantzville is close to two ferry terminals which result in “hundreds upon hundreds of cars coming north” through the district during the summer months. He said the four intersections along Nanaimo Parkway turn the Lantzville stretch of Highway 19 into a raceway.
“Having driven from the south end of Nanaimo to the north end, at four different lights, Jingle Pot, Northfield, Mostar and Aulds, the traffic gets so piled up that by the time they hit Aulds Road, it is like energy dispersing,” he said.
Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain said while he was supportive of the motion he was also “a little bit torn” with it, explaining that it would be better for staff to come back to council with a report instead of asking the ministry to provide all the information.
“[The province was] pretty clear that they were already willing to work with staff and bring all this information forward, so I think in some ways, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to send in a formal request,” he said.
Swain also said that during UBCM in September, the provincial government indicated that Lantzville’s stretch of highway was not an issue for them.
“It’s an issue to us, it’s an issue for our community; I read about it all the time on Facebook,” he said. “However, for them, they have not identified it as an issue and you have got to remember there [are] lots of highway throughout British Columbia.”
However, Geselbracht said council needs the statistical data from the ministry.
“The fact, as the mayor stated, that this stretch of highway is not a concern for the ministry at this point is more concerning because it certainly is a concern for us,” he said.
During the discussion, councillors flirted with a proposed amendment requesting an overpass with bike lanes and sidewalks be installed as part of an interchange at Ware Road, but ultimately opted against it. Proctor said the goal is to eventually ask the province to construct a cloverleaf interchange at Ware Road, but that such a request could be a bit premature at the moment.
“I think we need to get this information and have our ducks in a row before we ask for that so that we have a better chance at having a strong argument and getting the interchange,” she said.
There was also a suggestion to create a committee responsible for dealing with issues related to Highway 19 and traffic in Lantzville, but nothing was formally agreed upon. In the end, councillors voted unanimously in favour of Proctor’s motion.