Stickle upgrades move ahead without traffic light
There is no debate that the intersection of Highway 97 and Stickle Road north of Vernon is in need of safety upgrades.
It’s what those safety upgrades will look like that has been stirring up controversy for over a year.
Now the province has committed to going ahead with a design that doesn’t include the one thing many have been calling for: a traffic light.
The province argues that the controversial upgrades will cut down on accidents at the intersection while keeping traffic on the highway moving.
“This is a critical safety enhancement for that section of Highway 97,” said Transportation Minister Todd Stone.
The plan the province is moving forward with includes new lanes to help highway drivers turn left onto Stickle Road and blocks left turns from Stickle onto the highway.
However, the design still doesn’t include the one thing many area businesses have asked for: a traffic light.
“We feel [a traffic light] is the safest thing for people coming and going and yet it seems like they are going ahead without the light again,” said Randy James, whose business, Vernon Motorsports, is located near the intersection.
“It is a little frustrating.”
The province argues its plan is safer. It says a restricted traffic intersection, like the one planned for Stickle Road, can reduce crashes by 20 per cent. According to the province, a traffic light could reduce crashes by five per cent.
The province also argues the number of rear-end collisions might increase if a traffic light was installed.
“The same answer comes up that it is too dangerous [to install a traffic light] but all the people that drive the road all the time don’t believe that that is really the truth,” said James.
The minister responsible is standing behind the work done by staff.
“I trust their judgment implicitly that we have got this plan right, and we have done everything we possibly can, bending over backwards, to ensure that the community has an opportunity to provide their input,” said Stone.
Meanwhile, a local naturalist group has also raised concerns that a new road called for in the design, connecting Stickle Frontage Road with 20th Street, would destroy a wetland.
“What we would like to see is a replacement of the lost wetland either restoring an existing wetland that needs some restoration or finding a location where a new wetland could be created so in the end we have no net loss of wetlands,” said Harold Sellers, president of the North Okanagan Naturalists Club.
The province has plans it says will lessen the environmental impact of the project and appears to be open to working with the naturalists to bolster those efforts. However, it hasn’t specifically committed to wetland restoration.
The Transportation Ministry expects to be collecting bids from companies hoping to work on the project in the new year.
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