Changes are coming to the intersection of Highway 97 and 22nd Avenue. The most notable change will be the closure of a northbound lane of Westwood Drive to traffic.
These changes come after an incident in June 2018, when a CNC student was killed crossing this stretch of highway.
“A number of projects and upgrades were undertaken by the College of New Caledonia, the BC ministry of transportation and infrastructure (MOTI) and the city of Prince George to improve pedestrian safety along the highway 97 between 22nd and 18th avenue,” said Dave Dyer, General Manager of Engineering and Public works at the city’s Nov. 26 Council meeting.
The upgrades that have already been completed include the removal of a sidewalk on the CNC campus, construction of a barrier, signage, and new sidewalk on east central street, and the installation of a barrier fence on the centre median on highway 97.
The remaining works being undertaken by MOTI will be to change to the traffic signalization at Highway 97 and 22nd Avenue intersection.
The signal sequence will include a dedicated left turn movement for 22nd Avenue traffic. The pedestrian crosswalk signal will also be synchronized with the 22nd Avenue through and right-turn movements, to improve the safety to pedestrians using the intersection.
A countdown clock feature will also be added to the pedestrian signal.
These traffic pattern changes will prohibit northbound traffic from Westwood Drive from entering the intersection at Westwood and 22nd Avenue.
The northbound lane of Westwood Drive between the Hwy 97 southbound off-ramp/on-ramp and 22nd Avenue will be permanently closed to traffic.
Dyer said the main concern for closing this section of Westwood Drive is that once there is a dedicated left turn movement there will be a longer cue of vehicles in the through lane.
Alternate access to Highway 97 northbound is available from the on-ramp east of the overpass on Massey Drive, 550 m east of the intersection of Westwood Drive and Massey Drive.
“I was just hoping we had some opportunities to work around totally closing that road,” said Coun. Brian Skakun. “I don’t necessarily think we need to make such a major disruption of our traffic to at least partially accommodate some of these problems.”
Because the traffic signalization at the intersection of Highway 97N and 22nd Avenue is operated and maintained by MOTI, city council does not have input as to whether the changes actually occur.
“We have a really complex issue not just technically, but politically as well,” said Coun. Garth Frizzell. “It is tough enough with just one institution and one set of technical experts, but we also have to negotiate the political challenges that it’s their highway and our street.”
Coun. Terri McConnachie said she is grateful to see the intersection addressed.
“It’s been an issue for many, many years,” says McConnachie. “I think in the end we have to outweigh the good and the bad, and in this case I’m grateful for the upgrades with the advance turn and the countdown clock. I think with the adjustment the benefits will outweigh any of the drawbacks.”
Dyer said the northbound lane of Westwood drive will be closed in mid to late January 2019.