Keremeos residents have been pushing for safety improvements to the corner of Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue (Highway 3) for years. Last fall they got their wish when then transportation minister Shirley Bond saw a photo of a semi trailer crossing the sidewalk to make the turn. Agreeing that the corner needed to have something done, she asked the ministry to look at it, and by spring of this year engineers were looking at the matter. The ministry met with the public at an open house held at Victory Hall in May of this year with a presentation of different options for improvements being contemplated.
The project went to tender earlier this year, initially receiving limited interest. Description of the work included such things as pavement cutting, milling and removal, concrete removal, type “D” excavation work, installation of catch basins, gutters, curbs, sidewalk and paving work as well as the installation of signage.Work began on the project in October.
Finishing touches were being applied to the project at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street last week. Saturday brought some major inconvenience to local retailers when a contract crew showed up to mark crosswalks, shutting down the intersection in the morning.
Motorists are apparently still finding the intersection confusing, as witnessed last Tuesday afternoon as a motorist, heading east bound through the corner stopped in the middle of the intersection when he failed to comphrehend the traffic configuration and signage. Several vehicles behind him honked impatiently while the motorist attempted to figure out how to turn the corner.
“We haven’t seen any accidents,” said Greg McDonald, who along with daughter Tuesday have offices which overlook the corner.
“We are still seeing confused drivers, though – and they may be even more confused than before.”
McDonald thought that the signage was not large enough, which added to the confusion. Signs indicating the easterly direction of Highway 3 were made slightly larger, but are still not obvious for eastbound motorists. The westbound stop sign was also being missed by many motorists, who may be additionally confused by a flourescent orange sign attached below the stop sign saying eastbound traffic does not have to stop.
“There doesn’t appear to be any more trucks riding over the sidewalks,” McDonald added, noting that the problem of trucks cutting the radius of the intersection seems to have been solved. Like several other residents, McDonald is curious as to where all the money went.
The project was apparently budgetted at $750,000.
“It appears that a lot of money has been spent on the Seventh and Seventh corner,” noted new hardware store owner Sean Donovan.
“Would it not have been more effective to re-route semis via the town pass? By having semis go through town, I feel it ruins the tranquility of our community.
It’s hard to have that small town feel when you have these rigs going through town with their billboard sized cargo labelled “Sam’s Club,” or “McDonald’s,” Sean concluded.
Sandy Taylor and Darryl Letkeman are not satisfied that the travelling public – or the taxpayer – got their money’s worth out of the project, either.
“Having two lanes going into one (in the westbound lanes) is idiotic,” Letkeman said, noting similar types of solutions had been constructed in Richmond in years past that did not improve traffic matters at all.
“I’ll bet there will be traffic line ups to Hilltop Esso during the summer,” he added.
“It (the improvements) didn’t solve anything,” Taylor said.
“I’m afraid of all the people who haven’t had to stop there for all these years, who will have to adapt.
Who comes up with these decisions?”
Both business people note that the $750,000 cost of the project appears to be exhorbitant.
A response to an inquiry regarding the project’s budget, made to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure was answered just before press time this week.
“There was not a budgeting error. In most cases budgets are estimated prior to detailed engineering being completed. The budget estimate included engineering, property acquisition, utility relocations, electrical works, the construction and signage. Through the design process and during construction we were able to find economies and delivered the project under budget.
We are very near completion of the project – line marking and some sign relocations are to be completed this week. (We) anticipate that the project will be wrapped up by December 9,” responded Helen Evans, Project Manager for the safety upgrades, in an email to the Review.