Coun­cil­lors speak in favour of changes to in­ter­sec­tion

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - Mark NIELSEN Ci­ti­zen staff [email protected]­i­t­i­zen.ca

Sup­port in gen­eral was ex­pressed Mon­day when Prince Ge­orge city coun­cil mem­bers com­mented on ma­jor changes in store for the vicin­ity of High­way 97 and 22nd Av­enue in answer to the death of a Col­lege of New Cale­do­nia stu­dent this past sum­mer.

Tim­ing of the lights for traf­fic and pedes­tri­ans will be ad­justed to re­duce the po­ten­tial for con­flicts but per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant move will be clo­sure of the north­bound lane along West­wood Av­enue.

To be­gin in Jan­uary, it will re­duce con­ges­tion at the in­ter­sec­tion but will also mean driv­ers try­ing to get onto High­way 97 North will have to turn east onto Massey and then turn right onto the on-ramp just past the over­pass.

About 1,800 ve­hi­cles each day pass through the area to be closed, peak­ing at about 180 per hour in the af­ter­noon and 130 per hour in the morn­ing, while the on-ramp is un­der-used, city en­gi­neer­ing and pub­lic works gen­eral man­ager Dave Dyer told coun­cil.

The changes have been a source of con­tro­versy on so­cial me­dia with posters com­plain­ing they’re be­ing pe­nal­ized for the acts of jay­walk­ers cross­ing the high­way and say­ing it will add time to their com­mutes. Coun. Brian Skakun echoed those com­ments on Mon­day night but the rest of coun­cil gen­er­ally en­dorsed the plan when given a chance to com­ment fol­low­ing an up­date from Dyer.

The changes to the traf­fic lights is a Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion and In­fra­struc­ture project while West­wood is a city road. Coun­cil had no say on whether the work can go ahead and the up­date was pro­vided for in­for­ma­tion.

“There is no doubt we have to do some im­prove­ments there but I don’t think we nec­es­sar­ily have to make such a ma­jor dis­rup­tion to our traf­fic,” Skakun said and added an un­der­pass or an over­pass paid for by the prov­ince would have been a bet­ter op­tion.

How­ever, Coun. Murry Krause sug­gested an un­der­pass won’t re­duce jay­walk­ing.

“If peo­ple won’t go to a cross­walk to cross, they won’t go to an un­der­pass ei­ther,” he said and added many peo­ple, es­pe­cially women, avoid such dark­ened places at night in the name of per­sonal safety.

While she agreed that 1,800 ve­hi­cles is a lot, Coun. Terry McCon­nachie said the ben­e­fits will out­weigh the draw­backs.

“Folks just need to slow down and plan for greater time for where they’re go­ing,” she added. “I think that would much im­prove the sit­u­a­tion through­out our whole city.”

Coun. Garth Frizzell noted Prince Ge­orge Sec­ondary School is in the area and CNC is grow­ing by leaps and bounds and said the steps amount to a so­lu­tion that is “prob­a­bly go­ing to save lives.”

Coun. Su­san Scott said it’s al­ready a scram­ble on West­wood as driv­ers dodge mul­ti­ple lanes to get into the left lane on 22nd.

“It isn’t pretty,” she said.

If the lane isn’t closed, Coun. Frank Everitt said the traf­fic along West­wood will be backed up even more once the new tim­ing for the lights is in place and added the city’s pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing.

“We’ve got more traf­fic on the road and we’ve got peo­ple who are in a heck­uva hurry to go nowhere... and oc­ca­sion­ally, we need to have changes that make us do things dif­fer­ently and this is one of them,” he added.

Coun. Cori Ram­say also spoke in favour, say­ing it’s go­ing to be a ben­e­fit in terms of safety.

Coun. Kyle Samp­son took the same po­si­tion.

“It’s an in­con­ve­nience but if it’s go­ing to add to the safety of our res­i­dents, it’s the right choice,” he said.

Mayor Lyn Hall said he re­mains con­cerned about the “pinch point” on the east side where it can be dif­fi­cult to turn onto the high­way from the frontage road and, for those head­ing east, get­ting onto Grif­fiths Av­enue. He asked Dyer to raise the mat­ter with the min­istry.

Dyer said con­crete bar­ri­ers will be used to close off the lane over the short term while the city’s cap­i­tal plan calls for per­ma­nent re­moval of the as­phalt next year at a cost of about $200,000. A mes­sage board sign at Massey and West­wood will be used to alert driv­ers to the clo­sure.

The flash­ing am­ber light alert­ing driv­ers that some­one wants to cross Massey at the over­pass – of­ten used by PGSS stu­dents – will re­main in place but will be “some­thing we’ll def­i­nitely keep an eye on,” Dyer also said.

CI­TI­ZEN PHOTO BY BRENT BRAATEN

Changes are com­ing for West­wood Drive at 22nd Av­enue and how traf­fic gets onto the high­way.

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