Electronic travel time signs could eventually be installed along the Nanoose and Lantzville sections of Highway 19, but increased police presence might have to wait.
According to a letter available on the district’s website, B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation will explore “the opportunity” to install digital overhead signs along the Island Highway north of Nanaimo. The province will also conduct a traffic review of the Nanoose-Lantzville corridor of Highway 19 sometime in 2020-21 and has pledged to work closely with highway maintenance contractors to better provide detour information to municipalities, the letter notes.
The Nanoose-Lantzville corridor is a 12-kilometre stretch from the Highway 19A interchange in Parksville to the Lantzville Road intersection. No detour routes are available south of Northwest Bay Road in Nanoose Bay.
For months, Lantzville councillors have publicly expressed concerns about Highway 19 following a series of accidents and have called on the province to investigate electronic travel time signs and safety improvements. Councillors also passed a motion calling on the RCMP to increase enforcement levels along their 8.5-kilometre stretch of the highway.
In a recent letter to the District of Lantzville, RCMP Island District Traffic Services Insp. Tim Walton wrote that based on data, there are no plans to increase enforcement along Lantzville’s portion of the highway.
“We will continue our planned enforcement activities at our current levels…” he wrote. “There have been no fatal crashes reported in the last two years while there have been six fatal highway crashes in other parts of the central Island patrol area this year, notably on Highway 4.”
Lantzville’s stretch of Highway 19 is patrolled by two provincially funded B.C. RCMP traffic units, Walton said. The Integrated Road Safety Unit is a five-member unit that conducts enforcement activities on provincial highways and on municipal roads, while Central Vancouver Island Traffic Services is a Parksville-based enforcement and investigative unit that handles criminal and fatal crash investigations on Highway 19 and Highway 4. The six-member unit’s patrol area extends from Lantzville to Bowser and Parksville to Tofino.
The two traffic units spend more than one-quarter of their “enforcement time” in “high-crash corridors and intersections” and one such corridor is Highway 19 from Ware Road to Parksville, according to Walton.
“Our data has shown this approach to be effective in reducing the number of fatalities,” he wrote, adding, “The two traffic services units have together issued almost 500 violation tickets and about 100 notice and orders for equipment violations in [Lantzville] in the first nine months of this year.”
Walton also wrote that traffic enforcement levels are “influenced” by the highway’s design and that there are some areas where it is ” impractical and unsafe to intercept vehicles.”
While the news may come as a disappointment for some in Lantzville, the province is currently exploring the use of technologies including intersection safety cameras in unsafe or impractical areas for enforcement, according to Walton.
Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP media spokesperson, previously told the News Bulletin that officers will “certainly” continue to conduct targeted enforcement along Lantzville’s stretch of Highway 19.
Speaking to the News Bulletin, Lantzville Coun. Karen Proctor said she was pleased with the Island District RCMP’s response because it showed that officers are patrolling the highway despite what some people might think.
“I was really happy to hear that the RCMP are enforcing heavily in Lantzville, especially if they’ve given out 500 tickets to date,” she said.
When it came to the province’s response, Proctor said she was pleased to see that it is open to the idea of electronic travel signs. She said council hasn’t made any concrete decisions about what to do next but believes the best course of action is to wait for the traffic study to be completed before making any further requests.
“We can’t ask for overpasses or flyovers right now,” she said, adding “I’m really anxious to see the traffic review and to work with council to develop our next step.”
Coun. Ian Savage said Lantzville’s stretch of Highway 19 should be viewed as a “commuter road” instead of an expressway or highway. He said lowering the speed limits through Lantzville would be a good solution to improve safety and reduce accidents.
“Only slower speeds will help prevent serious accidents,” he said.