With Johnston Avenue and the Johnston Bridge still closed to industrial traffic and the construction of a new junior school planned, safety concerns on Maple Drive continue to be at the forefront, and the Cariboo Regional District is going to revisit the issue of streetlights.
At its Jan. 17 meeting in Williams Lake, the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) board voted to approach the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) about providing streetlights and more crosswalks along the Maple Drive corridor.
There has been a call for streetlights along Maple Drive to enhance the safety for pedestrians and the travelling public, and in May 2019, the CRD board did approve up to $7,500 for a feasibility study for streetlighting in this area.
CRD chief administrative officer John MacLean’s report to the board notes that when the City of Quesnel was forced to close the Johnston Bridge to industrial traffic in October 2018, the traffic flow changed, and there has been an increase in traffic on Maple Drive since then and especially industrial traffic. He says the upcoming construction of the new Quesnel Junior School will compound the situation, as there will be approximately 900 students in the schools on Maple Drive.
Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson told the CRD board the safety issues would not automatically be fixed if the Johnston Bridge were to re-open to heavy trucks, as Maple Drive has always been a route for industrial traffic.
“I want to be crystal-clear for the board that Maple Drive is an industrial-commercial road, always has been, and if you take Johnston Bridge and open it again, it will still be an industrial-commercial road,” he said. “When we have spring floods that close the Johnston Bridge loop, all that industrial traffic still goes on Maple Drive, and all the southbound traffic and logging truck traffic coming from the south, all use that road. Increasingly, when you look at where the annual allowable cut is going, more and more of the actual log traffic is going to be coming from the south anyways. So this business of ‘council just needs to get its act together and fix Johnston Bridge or allow truck traffic on Johnston Road’ as some are promoting doesn’t resolve the issue on Maple Drive.”
As well, Simpson says the only issue with the school being built is that the City of Quesnel has agreed to pull City water to the new school, which will impact one lane of the road.
“We’ve already worked with MOTI and industry that this work will be done in the off-haul season so it’s not going to impact the haul season for that road,” he said.
The City has asked to convene a meeting with the Quesnel School District, MOTI and the CRD to try to look at some of the issues associated with Maple Drive.
“Quite frankly, we think the school district, in partnership with MOTI, have a fix,” said Simpson. “The issue is pedestrian traffic on Maple Drive. Maple Drive has two parallel side roads that can accommodate pedestrian traffic and cycling roads that we can get those folks off that road. So lighting and all of that, fair enough, go ahead and look at that, but the real issue, we think, is the PAC group, the school district, the CRD and MOTI need to sit down and figure out how to move the pedestrian and cycling traffic on those side roads and get them off Maple Drive, and that’s a workable solution that would reduce some of the safety concerns on that road.”
Simpson suggested that along with requesting streetlights, the CRD should request two more heavily-designated crosswalks with flashing lights and “all the bells and whistles” for the elementary and junior schools.
Area A Director Mary Sjostrom reminded the board that a pedestrian was struck and killed on Maple Drive last January, and safety is a high priority.
“I realize that the ministry doesn’t feel it’s their responsibility; we’ve been at the table many times, not only with the school district, but with First Nations, ICBC, MOTI, the contractors, everybody, and what we’re trying to do, obviously, is we’re trying to move forward in some way and somehow,” she said. “The residents really would like to have something, and it’s not just the 135 on Maple Drive — it’s the area surrounding it because it’s considerably busy up there. We have to be on it continually.
“There are no sidewalks, the kids have to walk, sometimes they’re walking on the road. I’m really, really upset about the safety of those kids, and I don’t want anything to happen, and I’m sure nobody else does.”
The CRD board, mostly through the initiative of Director Sjostrom, has been advocating for MOTI to undertake the installation and maintenance of streetlighting along the Maple Drive corridor. Thus far, they have refused, allowing only for the installation of pedestrian crosswalk infrastructure, MacLean noted in his report to the board.
MacLean’s report included a letter from Transportation Minister Claire Trevena from Oct. 30, 2019, which stated MOTI has installed larger pedestrian advisory signs, added new warning signs and repainted the existing crosswalks, as well as adding a third crosswalk with signs. Trevena’s later states local governments are responsible for funding, installing and maintaining streetlights on side roads such as Maple Drive.
MacLean says the CRD does have some preliminary costing from BC Hydro on the installation of streetlights. Installations costs are in the neighbourhood of $95 per parcel, and ongoing maintenance would be about $55 per parcel, based on 135 parcels.
At the Jan. 17 meeting, the CRD board endorsed a motion that the installation of streetlights to enhance safety along the Maple Drive corridor should be the responsibility of the Province through MOTI. If the Province does not take responsibility, the CRD will approach stakeholders in the area to seek contributions to the capital cost of installing streetlights and approach affected property owners to seek their assent to establish a new service for the provision of streetlighting.
The CRD board also agreed that a public meeting will be held in the Maple Drive area early this year to community the CRD’s findings and proposal to area residents.