The Salt Spring Transportation Commission is hoping to take a more active role in pathway planning after hearing numerous delegations and considerable negative feedback on its current project.
Commissioners directed Capital Regional District staff to immediately examine options for improving safety at the Baker Road intersection and along concrete barrier curbs, while ensuring the pathway is completed in time for a funding deadline after hearing delegations at the April 26 business meeting. They also resolved that any future pathway designs must come to the commission for their recommendations before they are finalized.
Residents and frequent users of Baker Road who presented concerns to the commission last Monday said sight lines at the Lower Ganges Road intersection have been dangerously impacted by the new retaining wall installed as part of pathway construction. Cars turning into Lower Ganges Road from Baker may have difficulty seeing southbound traffic cresting the hill, especially if those vehicles are going faster than the speed limit.
“Due to the placement of the concrete blocks, the ability to see oncoming traffic is severely diminished,” explained Jan Fellenius, who has property next to the intersection.
Fellenius added he had a recent near-miss when a small car was coming down the hill, and said measures must be taken before someone is seriously hurt.
Ken Jackson, a retired safety professional who worked for 25 years assessing risk and investigating incidents at major industrial sites, said he believes risk at the intersection has increased significantly in a place that had problems to begin with.
“It was not great before, but you could actually improve the sight lines if you moved the blocks right up against the cemetery,” Jackson suggested.
The commission also heard presentations from Luisa Maffi, David Rapport and Gay Utter, who had similar concerns. Utter outlined the intensive process she underwent when creating the Acland Road subdivision and strata 20 years ago. Delegates also urged the commission to fund an independent traffic consultant.
The pathway was designed by Stantec engineering consultants and was contracted to Don Mann Excavating for construction.
CRD engineering staff did a sight visit on April 23 after receiving multiple complaints. They found the visibility at the Baker Road intersection appears to meet Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure guidelines. Staff have also observed there is a 30-km/hour slow down sign on the hill before the bend heading toward Booth Canal Road.
Commissioner Myna Lee Johnstone wondered if at least some of the concrete blocks in the retaining wall could be removed, an idea the commission ultimately directed staff to investigate.
“I have heard from the delegates here today that the issue is mostly that last batch of cement,” Johnstone said. “Surely there could be some portion removed that could improve visibility for them.”
The commission stopped short of ordering a halt to the project or dismantling the work. Electoral area director Gary Holman said there was no question that safety concerns must be dealt with; the question was how far to go in that direction when the project had received MoTI grant funding and the completion deadline had already been pushed back once.
“I would suggest to the commission we don’t want to jeopardize our $500,000 in funding,” Holman said. “If we start taking apart the project as currently designed, we risk half a million in funding.”
A second safety issue related to the project is the high curb that was installed to separate the pedestrian pathway from the road. Cyclists have said this barrier and the narrow marked shoulder lane could be a “death trap” if vehicles are passing too close and they have no way to escape onto the shoulder.
Holman said asphalt had been added to the side of the road to provide a wider space, but he agreed the two-feet-high curbs might be a bigger factor.
“I don’t think that anyone intended that improved safety for pedestrians might come at the price of decreasing safety for cyclists,” Holman said.
The commission passed a resolution that future pathway designs must take into account both cyclist and pedestrian safety. Staff are also to seek immediate short-term measures for improving safety through things like flags, road sweeping and signage.
Holman said the CRD could also look into whether it could replace the high curb with a lower structure later on.
And has anyone suggested a mirror so that a driver exiting Baker Road could see cross traffic? The reason I ask is that I don’t see any good suggestions here. All seem to involve taking private property (i.e. a cemetery) and expenditure of lots more money.
Yes, any such mirror would need to be hooded so as not to blind drivers, but that could be said about almost any road on Salt Spring.