At a cost of approximately $150,000, Eric Lachmuth thinks the new amber flashing light at Highway 97A and McLeod Road in Spallumcheen is money well spent to improve safety at the intersection.
Lachmuth, the Vernon-area manager for the Ministry of Transportation, was joined by two colleagues and Spallumcheen Mayor Will Hansma for the official opening of the new light Thursday.
“We feel it makes a significant safety improvement at that intersection,” said Lachmuth. “Our studies found that an amber flashing beacon is an excellent way to improved safety.”
Lachmuth pointed to a similar light installed 18 months ago on Highway 97 south of Vernon at Bailey Road, an intersection like the one at McLeod Road that has seen its share of fatals and other accidents.
“The flashing amber beacon is well received,” said Lachmuth. “Traffic is slowing down when they see the beacon which makes them more aware of other traffic making movement onto the highway.”
The beacon at McLeod Road flashes amber for highway traffic, which the goal, said Lachmuth, is for traffic to recognize there’s an intersection approaching and to slow down. For those residents travelling out of McLeod Subdivision and approaching the beacon, they are greeted with a flashing red light which tells them to stop.
Residents of the subdivision began a push for a signal light at the intersection in 2009, and that included presenting MLA George Abbott with a petition containing close to 850 signatures asking for a signal.
The ministry said it listened to the people, but as far as Frances Wirtz is concerned, the installation of the amber beacon is very late in coming. Wirtz is one of the people who spearheaded the petition campaign.
“It (light) was promised more than a year ago,” said Wirtz. “All it does is it tells people there’s an intersection there. It’s just a little bit better than nothing.”
Hansma said he had received numerous calls from people appreciative of the installation of the signal, and called the beacon “a good first step.”
“I think it’s fantastic and we need to recognize the level of support that was required by the ministry to have this done, we appreciate that as a community,” said Hansma. “It will bring a level of awareness through the intersection, that’s what we want. For traffic to be aware when they approach the intersection and that’s what this does.
“You can see this thing almost from Armstrong when you come around that corner, it gives people that level of time to be able to recognize it’s a cautionary intersection.”
Residents had been calling for a signal light at the intersection, or possibly a left-hand turn lane for northbound traffic off Highway 97A.
Lachmuth said the province is trying to limit the amount of traffic lights on highways to eliminate creating stoppages and, therefore, long solid walls of traffic.
Hansma said he will bring up the topic when he meets with transportation minister Blair Lekstrom at this week’s UBCM convention in Vancouver.
“I know the ministry has talked about the expansion of the highway further, and that the Highway 97 corridor is a very strategic plan for the ministry to bring it all the way through,” he said. “This (amber beacon) is exactly what we needed for an interim solution.”