A vehicle drives onto Northfield Road via Island Highway. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo councillors to discuss budget increase at Northfield intersection

Budget could increase by $525,000 due to construction costs

City council will consider a request for $525,000 in additional funding for Northfield intersection upgrades.

A motion calling for an increase to the improvement project’s budget will be discussed at a future Nanaimo council meeting after a unanimous vote at a city finance and audit committee meeting on Wednesday.

A staff report revealed that project costs increased after the lowest bid received by the city was $2.32 million. The entire project is now expected to cost $4.18 million, with some funding coming from the province. The intersection improvement project calls for realignments to be made at the Northfield Road, old Island Highway and Boundary Road intersection.RELATED: Costs could rise at Northfield intersection

During the meeting, Poul Rosen, the city’s senior manager of engineering, told councillors that the project is driven by safety, not increased traffic flow. He said the proximity of the highway and the railroad have made the project challenging.

“This is not ideal. If we were to do to an upgraded intersection design it would not look anything like this,” he said. “There are a lot of compromises that have been made as part of this design.”

Coun. Jim Kipp told the committee that he didn’t like the design of the improvement project and that he’d never seen a design like that in his life. He questioned why the plan doesn’t include use of the grass field at the old Woodlands Secondary School.

“We could have probably done a roundabout,” he said.

Kipp said the train tracks going through the intersection are an issue and that the problem with the intersection isn’t the roadway itself, but motorists who don’t understand the concept of merging or signalling.

“Everybody, what they like to do is run and jump right into the fast lane because they don’t know how to yield or signal,” he said. “The road is not bad; the drivers are pathetic.”

Coun. Jerry Hong said he didn’t mind the infrastructure upgrades but felt that the plan should be thinking long-term, accounting for increased traffic flow over a prolonged period of time.

He suggested the idea of prohibiting left turns onto Island Highway, Boundary Road and Northfield Road as a cost-effective short-term solution.

“It wouldn’t cost us money other than a sign saying ‘no left turn,'” he said.

Rosen said while that might be a cheap solution, he wondered if there would be compliance from motorists. He also pointed out that by forbidding left turns on those roadways, motorists will find other ways, likely by going down side streets such as Duggan Road, which wouldn’t make nearby residents happy.

“There are about 6,000 vehicles a day on Boundary Road; it’s part of the major road network. There are still going to be those trips made, but they will push off into the neighbourhood. So the consequences would be a ton of traffic on Duggan and potentially some down on Waddington.”

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said while she understood the concerns raised by Hong, she felt the design would improve safety at the intersection.

“I think by having the left turn it is going to make a big difference in terms of blockage of the highway,” she said.

Coun. Ian Thorpe said considering that there is a tender for the project on the table, approving the additional funding should be moved forward.

“I just feel it is important to move ahead with this,” he said. “Maybe there are cheaper, short-term fixes but I don’t think that is the answer.”

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