Thursday, May 26, 2016

Businesses, residents lash out at Stickle plan

by Richard Rolke - Vernon Morning Star posted May 26, 2016 at 6:00 PM
The Ministry of Transportation is drawing heavy fire over its latest plans for Stickle Road. Opposition was significant as the ministry unveiled a proposal Thursday that would see left-turns banned at Stickle Road and Highway 97 and a south-bound extension of 20th Street into Vernon. “Everybody is shaking their heads because they (ministry) aren’t listening,” said Alan Hannebauer, owner of R-xtra Storage. “The simplest, cheapest solution is to put in a traffic light.” That is also the view coming from Brian Johnston, Vernon Kia owner. “My preference is a controlled light but they (ministry) are adamantly opposed to it,” he said. This was the third time that the ministry had come to the public with an option to maintain traffic flow and safety at Stickle Road. The regular tweaking of plans was frustrating for some. “The ministry is stupid,” said Darrel Stinson, former MP. “What do the businesses and people there want? Listen to them.” Pat Loehndorf, Swan Lake Corridor Business Association president, was optimistic Thursday’s meeting would unveil an acceptable solution but he left disappointed. “It’s no improvement,” he said, adding that large transport trucks departing from Stickle Road businesses will be funneled down 20th Street into a residential area and have to navigate busy 58th Avenue to reach 27th Street and the highway.Other concerns about extending 20th Street also exist.“It’s going right through a wetland,” said resident Jack Van Dyck.The current design would prevent traffic from travelling from the west side of Stickle Road, across the highway, to the east side. That is a concern for Serry Massoud, owner of Squires Four Pub.“The RV park across there is huge for me,” he said, adding that he expects customers will head to another pub instead of going south into Vernon and then back-tracking to Squires.“It doesn’t make sense.”Some residents questioned why Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, wasn’t present to hear from residents directly.“I’m disappointed Eric wasn’t here,” said Will Rogers, who used to work at the auto mile.“It (plan) looks like a fait accompli.”Support for the ministry came from local politicians.“This is a far better solution. It provides safe egress into the city,” said Bob Fleming, BX-Swan Lake director. Akbal Mund, Vernon mayor, admits a traffic signal may eventually be required, but he insists action must be taken immediately.“I want something now for the safety of residents,” he said.The ministry would not speculate on what the next steps may be if the overwhelming public input is for a traffic signal.“I think we’ve addressed a lot of their concerns with this design,” said Spencer King, the ministry’s project manager.King says a light would create congestion and possible collisions while the current proposal is geared towards safety and maintaining access to local businesses.In terms of a one-way 20th Street connector into Vernon, King says that addresses the need for vehicles to turn left off Stickle on to Highway 97.“It will accommodate (transport) trucks quite easily.”An environmental impact study along the 20th Street route has been done.“We are starting to develop mitigation plans. We will improve fish habitat,” said King.If the Stickle design moves ahead, it could take two years for the $9.5 million project to be constructed, with work starting as early as this fall.

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