The Cariboo Regional District (CRD) hopes to see the installation of 23 streetlights along Maple Drive as early as spring 2021. The CRD will be seeking approval from voters in the proposed streetlight service area this fall.
It is anticipated the project will increase the safety of pedestrians on Maple Drive, which has seen increased industrial traffic since weight restrictions were put on Quesnel’s Johnston Bridge in October 2018. One pedestrian died in a collision on the road in January 2019.
CRD Area A director Mary Sjostrom has been successful in obtaining a $12,000 grant from ICBC toward the streetlighting project. The initial cost of installation will be offset by the grant, and the CRD proposes to fund the service through a residential tax to surrounding properties: $7.31 per $100,000 of assessed property value per year.
The proposed project will see 23 streetlights installed on Maple Drive from the junction with Highway 97 to the corner of Plywood Road.
With the City of Quesnel unlikely to repair Johnston Bridge anytime soon, pedestrian safety on Maple Drive is paramount. “That road is a huge priority. Other than shift changes, it basically has [industrial] trucks on it 22 hours a day,” said Emcon Services’ North Cariboo division manager John Andrushko. Quesnel Junior School (QJS), Ecole Red Bluff Lhtako Elementary and a local daycare all reside along Maple Drive, along with a number of residential properties.
Andrushko said the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has upped safety measures on the road since 2018. Emcon drivers patrol the route every day, looking for debris on the road, new potholes, or trees needing be removed for visibility. The road is first on the list for mowing in the summer, to increase sightlines for drivers.
Winter maintenance has also been increased. “We keep snowbanks pushed back more often to give better sight distance, but it is dark. I think the streetlighting would help,” said Andrushko.
Andrushko noted that during school months, Emcon is in close contact with school bus drivers about the route, and that MOTI has expanded the school zone area so that drivers must slow for the entire length of road between QJS and Ecole Red Bluff Lhtako.
Other safety measures put in place on Maple Drive include the installation of larger pedestrian advisory signs, new warning signs and one new crosswalk.
The streetlight proposal will be in the hands of voters this fall, when the CRD seeks electoral assent via alternate approval. This method will see the CRD notify affected property owners of the proposed tax and new service via email, newspaper advertising, and other forms of communication.
“I’m told hopefully September or October we are going to go to the alternate approval process,” said Director Sjostrom. “But if at least 10 per cent of the property owners in that proposed service area submit a form saying they don’t agree, then we’ll have to go to referendum,” she explained. If fewer than 10 per cent object, the service bylaw will be approved and the project will move forward.
Sjostrom said support for the project has already been very positive. The CRD held a public meeting in March 2020, where feedback encouraged the CRD to increase the catchment area for the proposed tax from just residents of Maple Drive, to residents in the surrounding area.
The CRD then mailed out a survey to affected properties gauge support. The CRD received 150 responses, with approximately 75 per cent in favour of the proposal.
CRD director Sjostrom said she’s grateful for the partners who have been involved with the safety project, including ICBC, MOTI, School District #28, the RCMP, West Fraser Mills, Emcon Services, and the City of Quesnel.
“I’m hoping that we are successful in the fall, and I would be looking to hopefully get on the docket with BC Hydro, and it would be early spring that we might see installation. It’s very exciting,” she said.
—with a file from Lindsay Chung