BEYOND THE HEADLINES: MLA in a Stickle pickle

Eric Foster defends Ministry of Transportation plan while mayor lines up with businesses

It clearly wasn’t the wisest thing for MLA Eric Foster to say.

When asked by the media about the prospect of anyone turning left off of Stickle Road on to Highway 97 not being able to use the 27th Street exit, Foster down-played the impact on motorists.

“You just go over the hill and make a left turn,” he said.

In a nut shell that sounds simple, but the reality is that anyone leaving Stickle Road and wanting to go to Walmart or the Village Green Centre will have to bypass the 27th Street exit and go over the overpass and then hit 48th Avenue. Along the way they will encounter the traffic light at Vernon Toyota which could be backed-up if more vehicles are going that way, and then the ever increasing congestion along 48th Avenue and more lights before reaching 27th Street.

Or if, after leaving Squires Four or the automobile dealers there, you will have to make the same circuit to 27th Street and ultimately your home in parts of Vernon or Coldstream.

Obviously this isn’t Vancouver and Foster is correct that restricting access to the 27th Street exit won’t add hours to a trip, but it will make what were fairly straight-forward excursions more complex and inconvenient. Would you rather be at Walmart in a few minutes or take the scenic tour?

Some residents may actually question frequenting the businesses on Stickle Road if they can’t simply get on to 27th Street and go home, and that could impact the bottom line for those merchants.

But while Foster is defending the Ministry of Transportation’s design, Vernon’s mayor is rallying for the residents and businesses.

“The majority of vehicles want to go to 27th Street,” said Akbal Mund.

Of course this isn’t the first time that Mund has lashed out at the ministry’s plans for a T intersection at Stickle Road instead of a traffic signal.

“This presentation insulted my intelligence and the intelligence of everyone,” he said after a ministry presentation last week that suggested traffic signals only occur in more urban environments.

Essentially, ministry staff made it sound like Stickle Road was out on the bald prairie, which is odd since you can practically see the Golden Arches from there.

Given the ministry’s logic, there shouldn’t be a traffic light at Highway 97 and  College Way or Highway 6 and Aberdeen Road.  What makes them more urbanized than Stickle Road?

Why is there a light at Smith Drive and Highway 97A in Armstrong and what about the signals, one after the other, on the Trans-Canada Highway heading west into Kamloops?

Mund has also accused the ministry of being contradictory when he has suggested reducing the speed on Highway 97 at Stickle Road.

“They say lowering the speed is dangerous but according to ICBC and the RCMP, lowering the speed is safer,” he said.

Given that the City of Vernon and the Regional District of North Okanagan have sided behind Stickle Road residents and businesses for a traffic light, the ministry could be under significant pressure to back down during a public open house at the Prestige Hotel today.

However, if the ministry sticks to its guns and does install a T intersection with no Stickle Road access to 27th Street, residents may want to check with Foster to see if he has extra time to get them around.