The Ministry of Transportation wants to reduce the possibility of accidents at Highway 97 and Stickle Road.

The Ministry of Transportation wants to reduce the possibility of accidents at Highway 97 and Stickle Road.

Responses mixed to Stickle Road project proceeding

A local resident would still like a traffic signal at the intersection

Even critics admit there is little that can be done to stop a controversial highway project.

The Ministry of Transportation is moving ahead with safety measures at Stickle Road, including blocking left-turns on to Highway 97 and extending 20th Street southbound into Vernon.

“Anything is better than the way it is now,” said George Zimmerman, who has lived on Stickle Road since the 1950s and has witnessed numerous accidents.

“I’d still like to see a traffic light. They were told what a majority of people wanted.”

At three public open houses, a majority of residents supported a traffic signal.

However, the ministry insists that’s not viable.

“Given that many of the comments we received  indicated a preference for a traffic signal to be installed, the ministry asked an independent road safety expert to compare the  ministry’s design with a traffic signal,” said Todd Stone, transportation minister.

The report says a traffic signal on a roadway where the posted speed exceeds 64 kilometres an hour can provide a five per cent reduction in crashes, however the frequency of rear-end collisions can increase substantially. In comparison,  it says the proposed restricted movement configuration can  result in a 20 per cent reduction in crashes.

“The professionals say the safest way to do this is not to put a light in,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA.

“I don’t know how you can argue with safety.”

The ministry’s plan also includes extending left-turn lanes from the highway and installing acceleration and deceleration lanes.

Residents on the west side of Stickle Road will have to travel into Vernon first and then backtrack to the highway to head north.

“It’s not the first choice people wanted but the primary goal was to improve the intersection and this does that,” said Bob Fleming, BX-Swan Lake director.

The 20th Street extension will go through BX Creek Delta Park.

The North Okanagan Naturalists Club is not impressed with the ministry’s plan for shrub planting, invasive species control and bird boxes.

“NONC requests the ministry and the city to commit to replacement of lost wetland with restored or new wetland habitat. This should be at a location in the city, or at least within Greater Vernon,” said Harold Sellers, club president, in a letter to Stone.

“It should be either the restoration of an existing wetland that parties agree is deserving of restoration or a newly created wetland at a site and on a scale also agreeable to all parties.”

The ministry defends its environmental mitigation process which includes improving fish habitat and planting native riparian vegetation.

“The ministry is engaging  with local environmental conservation groups to identify potential  further improvements,” states a release.

Also, the ministry will rebuild portions of the existing BX Creek trail impacted by the road.

The ministry’s safety project is estimated to cost about $9.5 million while the ministry says a traffic signal would cost $7.8 million.

Detailed designs will be developed this fall and tendering for the project should occur by early 2017.