Lake Country aims to slow potentially deadly traffic on Highway 97

File photo of an accident along Highway 97 in Lake Country. Global News

Lake Country’s mayor is calling on the province to hand over some of its controls over the traffic that barrels down the highway bisecting the community.

“Highway 97 runs right through the middle of our town, it separates the east and west sides of the city,” Lake Country Mayor Blair Ireland said.

“The traffic in the corridor is pretty high speed. We’ve been promised solutions for years, with overpasses and different things,  but nothing’s coming … in the last 10-year forecast from the Ministry of Highways, nothing is coming in the Central Interior.”

So, Ireland said, district officials are looking at ways to make crossing the highway safer, particularly with intersections like Beaver Lake Road, Berry Road and Oceola Road, which frequently shuts the highway down with accidents.

“We’re asking them to give us red light cameras and we’ll (say) where they need to go because we want to make crossing this highway safer,” he said.

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With that in mind, the district is taking a resolution to the Southern Interior Local Government Association meeting this week, and looking for support to install intersection safety cameras at key intersections to enhance road safety and reduce traffic-related incidents.

It will then ask the province to provide the necessary funding and resources to facilitate the installation, maintenance, and operation of intersection safety cameras in municipalities requiring them.

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It’s a resolution Ireland thinks will resonate with other communities, though none are going through quite the same kind of growing pains.

Click to play video: 'Lake Country Fire Dept. hosts junior firefighter bootcamp'
Lake Country Fire Dept. hosts junior firefighter bootcamp

“BC Statistics released growth figures on us two months ago, forecasting and Lake Country is going to grow 90 per cent in the next 20 years — so that’s almost doubling the population,” Ireland said.

That growth is going to be on both sides of the highway and it may shift the somewhat unusual dynamic of the city.

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Ireland explained that City Hall, schools, shopping and a number of essential services are sitting on the east side of the highway.

“But on the west side, there’s nothing but residential, so we’re trying to connect those two places. If you live on that side, you have to get here somehow and I don’t think that I would let my kids cross that highway,” he said.

While traffic cameras won’t fix all the ills caused by having a highway bisect a community, it could help a little. Ireland explained that it’s difficult for the RCMP  to manage traffic in the area.

“It’s kind of unsafe, actually. There’s no place to pull people over, there’s no place to measure the speed from, it’s very difficult for them,” he said. “So we need to find ways to make it safer for people in the interim before. We are not going to stop lobbying for that overpass and that safe connection between the east and west sides but we also can’t wait.”

Ireland said that he anticipates there will be people who are aggravated by the idea, but said there’s good cause to do it anyway.

“If it was their relative that was killed, what would they be saying?” he said.

“Everybody, I mean, everybody’s in a hurry. I’m always in a hurry. But we have to think about community and we have to think about safety. Kids want to walk to school but I wouldn’t let my kids walk across the highway. Not the way that it is right now.”

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If endorsed, the motion would then be brought before the union of bc municipalities to drive the message home to the province.

Global News contacted the Ministry of Transportation to ask whether it would consider giving more control to municipal governments but late this afternoon the ministry responded by saying intersection safety cameras are a provincial enforcement initiative under the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

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