Westkal reclaimed

A Coldstream neighbourhood is getting the chance to reinvent itself.

A Coldstream neighbourhood is getting the chance to reinvent itself.

With the College Way extension opening Tuesday, the long-suffering residents of Westkal Road no longer feel like they have the world driving past their door step. Gone is the constant stream of vehicles using Westkal as a link to the college, the dump, Kelowna, the beach or Lumby depending on their direction of travel.

Backing out of a driveway could be down-right dangerous, but particularly more hair-raising was going for a walk along the narrow, two-lane road with vehicles within a mere few inches.

“There’s been a concern with the number of cars and speeders,” said Paul Christie, a longtime denizen of Westkal Road.

“We were fearful of bad accidents.”

Bowing to pressure to improve safety, the District of Coldstream installed speed bumps on steroids in 2002 or 2003.

“We’re not keen on them but we’re not keen on having kids killed either,” said resident Barry Fifer in a news article at the time.

While the mini-mountains slowed traffic down, they also proved unpopular with motorists who thought it was their God-given right to speed or were worried the brief jostling would spill their double-double.

To demonstrate their displeasure, or perhaps how smart they thought they were, some drivers began honking their horns as they passed along Westkal.

Others got cheap thrills as they hit the gas just before climbing over the speed humps to gain a little air (I admit to freaking out my kids by doing this).

Christie was at the College Way opening Tuesday and he’s looking forward to a slower pace on the home front.

“What we’ll have now is local traffic,” he said.

And opportunities may ultimately blossom for the neighbourhood, including possibly sidewalks or improved public access to the absolutely wonderful Pumphouse Beach. Imagine families purchasing homes without worrying that their kids will become a moving target?

Christie is convinced the downgraded status of Westkal will bring people together.

“I’d like to see it become a nice country lane,” he said.

It should be pointed out that the College Way extension — commonly referred to as the grid road — has been on the drawing board for at least two decades.

Council after council did absolutely nothing about it, either because of indifference or they were thrown off by the multi-million-dollar price tag. The situation on Westkal Road was just allowed to deteriorate because of a lack of action.

That’s why current Coldstream council and staff deserve credit for pressing ahead with something others were unable or unwilling to do. Of course it should be pointed out that timing is everything and if it wasn’t for the global recession, the federal and provincial governments wouldn’t have been trying  to stimulate the economy and a big chunk of the $9 million budget wouldn’t have been available.

The new route means Okanagan College will have a more direct link to the broader Coldstream community while the traffic light at Kalamalka and Husband roads will provide easier access for those living on Middleton Mountain.

But in the end, the real winners are the folks along Westkal Road who have experienced years of mayhem.

Not having to fear being sideswiped, I anticipate family walks and impromptu visits to the neighbours will become part of daily routines.