The Johnston Bridge has been closed to heavy industrial traffic since October 2018, and local trucking companies have asked Quesnel council to consider allowing industrial traffic on Johnston Avenue due to safety concerns with the Maple Drive route they’ve had to take to the plywood plant since that time. At its Dec. 17 meeting, council resolved that Johnston will remain a residential road closed to heavy industrial traffic. (Observer file photo)

Johnston Avenue will remain closed to heavy truck traffic

Quesnel trucking companies had asked council to consider allowing some or all trucks on Johnston

Johnston Avenue will remain off-limits to heavy industrial traffic.

At its Dec. 17 meeting, Quesnel council resolved that Johnston Avenue will remain a residential neighbourhood road, without heavy truck traffic. This resolution came after council received requests from Inwood Trucking and Keis Trucking to allow logging trucks to utilize Johnston Avenue to access the West Fraser Plywood Plant.

The local trucking companies have safety concerns with the current route along Maple Drive that they have been taking since the Johnston Bridge was closed to heavy traffic in October 2018.

During the Dec. 17 meeting, council also resoled that the City will encourage — and assist where able — the Cariboo Regional District (CRD), Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) and School District 28 (SD28) to implement solutions to improve traffic and pedestrian safety on Maple Drive.

In October 2018, the City of Quesnel placed a 10,000-kilogram weight restriction on the Johnston Bridge, re-routing industrial truck traffic to Maple Drive, after a bridge inspection revealed some corrosion problems on some of the main beams.

READ MORE: Quesnel trucking companies want alternative to Maple Drive

City manager Byron Johnson provided a report to council, which comes from a stakeholder meeting the City hosted to better understand the traffic safety concerns on Maple Drive.

“It has been confirmed by West Fraser Mills that the hauling rates to bring peelers into the plywood plant have been adjusted for the changes in routing necessitated by the Johnston Bridge issues,” Johnson told council. “There would not be a financial incentive for the truckers to use Johnston Avenue versus Maple Drive. Their stated concern is safety only.”

Following the stakeholder meeting regarding safety along Maple Drive, a number of areas of improvement are being considered, Johnson told council. The CRD (Area A) is considering a local service area improvement project for more streetlights to serve Maple Drive, and the CRD and SD28 are considering whether there are alternate pedestrian and bike routes that could allow access to the schools on Maple Drive while keeping users away from the main roadway. As well, MOTI is considering lighting improvements for both key intersections on Maple Drive and crosswalks, and MOTI is reviewing whether a dedicated active transportation pathway could be implemented on the shoulder of Maple Drive. MOTI has also reduced the speed limit on Maple Drive to 30 kilometres per hour for the roadway in front of and between the two schools.

“While there is no single solution that solves the safety issues, together, some of the above measures could result in noticeable positive impacts for pedestrian- and traffic-related safety,” said Johnson.

Johnson explained that the City has not allowed heavy truck traffic on Johnston Avenue since the early 1970s due to a fatality between a logging truck and a child.

“Since that time, the street has developed considerably with the development of the University of Northern British Columbia/College of New Caledonia facility and more residential development,” he said.

The City’s Public Works staff have raised a number of safety concerns about industrial traffic on Johnston.

These include the fact that residential development on this street is much closer to the roadway than most of the residential development along Maple Drive, there are four times as many crosswalks on Johnston (between MacDonald’s and the West Fraser Timber Park) as there are on Maple Drive (between Highway 97 and Spruce), and the lane width is less on Johnston Avenue, particularly in the winter when the snow is plowed to one side and left in the boulevard.

As well, staff say the roadway has not been developed to an industrial weight standards, meaning the heavier traffic would blow the road sooner than if it had been built with the expectation of heavy truck traffic, and the City could expect more ongoing maintenance costs.

The Johnston Avenue route to the plywood plant has “significant adverse grades,” and access by loaded logging trucks around the Johnston Bridge roundabout could be problematic. As well, Johnson pointed out the MOTI bare road winter maintenance standard, which applies to Maple Drive, is a higher level of road maintenance, resulting in better outcomes than plowing and sanding.

“Maple Drive is built to allow for industrial traffic, and the current plywood plant traffic falls within the design guidelines,” said Johnson. “On the other hand, Johnston Avenue is not built to handle industrial load weights, and industrial traffic has not been allowed on it for many years. The discussion in the stakeholder meeting was whether the City would allow some industrial traffic onto Johnston Avenue. Consideration of allowing empty trucks was specifically discussed. The concern from staff is that if industrial traffic was allowed to start on Johnston Avenue, it would be very difficult to control the amount of trucks.”

City staff’s recommendation was to keep Johnston Avenue closed to heavy truck traffic.

“All potential solutions to help Maple Drive traffic safety should be implemented, although the City can only encourage this, since it is outside City jurisdiction,” Johnson told council.

READ MORE: Johnston Bridge to reopen this evening for lightweight vehicles

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