BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Shedding light on the subject

Why did the government proceed with Stickle Road plans when there was significant opposition?

Word came late last week that the Ministry of Transportation’s controversial plan for Stickle Road had been scrapped.

“The original plan is put on the shelf, it’s not going to be used,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, in Sunday’s Morning Star.

The ministry had been proposing that left turns from Stickle Road on to Highway 97 be prohibited, something that angered residents and businesses in that immediate area.

“I lobbied the minister (Todd Stone) who was aware of the negative publicity the plan had attracted,” said Foster.

“He totally agreed that the ministry was planning to spend a lot of money that the people we’re spending it for don’t want, and it’s not going to serve their needs, so it’s been scrapped.”

And it’s great that elected officials have been responsive, but one has to wonder how things still got as far as they did, particularly when ministry staff had known for years that a right-in, right-out concept was not wanted.

In 2012, the Regional District of North Okanagan board passed a motion calling for a traffic control signal to be installed at Stickle Road and Highway 97.

And when ministry officials came before RDNO with options in late 2014, regional directors were clear once again about what they wanted.

“We had indicated our options from the start,” said Bob Fleming, BX-Swan Lake director, of a light.

Despite all of that, the ministry still presented RDNO with its official plan — blocking left-hand turns — April 1 and a public open house was held April 30. The event included a series of information boards touting the benefits of right-in, right-out over a traffic light.

Among the reasons was left-hand turns, “would increase greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles idling at a signalized intersection.” Obviously the environment is important, but how do vehicles at a light contribute to global warming more than forcing vehicles on the west side of the road to go south to 27th Street or Pleasant Valley Road and backtrack so they can get on to Highway 97 and head north?

During the open house, ministry staff stuck to their guns and did their best to convince residents and businesses that a light is misguided.

“It doesn’t meet signal warrants because only five per cent of the traffic makes any turning movements there,” said Rampaul Dulay, project director, adding that 95 per cent of the traffic goes through the intersection on the highway.

However, what Dulay failed to point out is the statistics are skewed because motorists avoid turning left at Stickle Road because of the risk involved. If a traffic light was installed, usage would increase, particularly as more commercial development occurs in the area.

Given that the ministry knew well in advance that there was opposition to right-in, right-out at Stickle, it would be interesting to know how much was spent on engineering plans, cost estimates and fancy graphics for a plan that has now been apparently abandoned?

But while right-in, right-out is shelved, there are no guarantees of a traffic light either.

“I asked the ministry staff to try and get something back to me before the end of the (Legislative) session at the end of this month,” said Foster.

It was political pressure that got the original concept scrapped, but Foster can’t be complacent and expect the ministry to do the right thing.

Businesspeople, residents and local politicians have spoken loud and clear and Foster needs to add his voice to the chorus calling for a light.