By Keri Sculland
With files from The Golden Star
Golden residents had many questions and concerns for Kicking Horse Canyon Project representatives at a public meeting hosted on October 30.
The final phase of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project is set to begin in spring 2020, and includes tentative plans and timelines for construction traffic management. Closures of Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada Highway)are expected during off-peak times, and the use of Highways 93 and 95 will detour traffic during those closures.
More than 300 people attended the information sessions between 4 and 8 p.m. on October 30.
“The Phase 4 team presented some of the strategies they’ve come up with to deal with the traffic,” said Town of Golden Mayor Ron Oszust.
Kicking Horse Canyon Project Phase 4 executive project director Murray Tekano ensured residents that Highway 93 and 95 could handle upwards of 6,500 vehicles per day of diverted traffic during Trans-Canada Highway closures.
“That’s all within the capacity of those two lanes and within the ability of the passing lanes,” Tekano said at the meeting. “It’s not going to be clogged up, but that being said there were recommendations for some enhancements.”
Traffic is expected to grow rapidly on the alternative routes, and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) says more advanced signage on things like wildlife crossing and school bus stops will be needed. MOTI also said they plan to install a traffic light at 7 Street N. and 10th Avenue N.
“Putting a signal in the right place can actually generate gaps in traffic down the stream, so that’s what this is designed to do,” Tekano said.
MOTI has been working with community stakeholders to generate the best plan for closures during the Phase 4 construction.
“I know that people might think that with more traffic, you might generate more probability of things happening, but the emergency [responders] have been giving us advice,” Tekano said. “And the other concern is the chance of an unfamiliar driver encountering something that they aren’t experienced with, such as encountering an animal.”
MOTI presented studies and simulations to attendees, showing what the traffic will look like, and also unveiled a plan that would widen both sides of the Kicking Horse River bridge that runs through town, giving trucks more room on either side to make the approach to the bridge.
At the south entrance to the bridge, the raised pedestrian area would be eliminated. At the north end, the sides of the road would be widened, explained Oszust.
“This is where you’re going to feel the traffic change the most, getting on and off the highway, and crossing the highway, and feeling like you can do those things safely,” Tekano said. “So we are ensuring that at least through both signage improvements and in the case of the intersections at the bridge, we can improve the opportunity for people to cross the highway safely and minimize disruptions…
“It will really enhance the way that that functions. It’ll allow commercial vehicles because it will be very wide, it’ll allow them to manoeuvre without over tracking, and they won’t be trying to be too far into the centre line. That’s what causes the to get to close together sometimes, when one has to stop to let the other one go, so that’ll reduce the amount of times that happens. We think it’s really gonna make a big difference at that intersection.”
Talks from the ministry also included the British Columbia Infrastructure Benefits program, which hires qualified tradespeople and apprentices and focuses on locals, women, Indigenous people, and apprentices to work on the project.
“This is a project that while it’s going to be great when it’s finished, everyone needs to be a part of it, so we’re really welcoming input. I don’t want to say it’s always good. Issues do come up. I know there’s a lot of heartfelt ideas that are brought to the table, so the townspeople are really doing well in my opinion,” Tekano said.