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'This intersection is scary, there’s going to be a fatality there'

Cluculz Lake residents get behind petition to demand province follows through on plan to widen Highway 16 roadway

It’s a deadly accident waiting to happen.

A group of concerned residents who own properties on the south shore of Clucultz Lake are petitioning the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (MOTI) to make it a priority to fix a dangerous intersection on Highway 16 where it meets Lloyd Drive.

The sharp angle and downhill grade where Lloyd Drive meets the highway requires motorists to slow down to make the turn and that creates hazards for approaching drivers because there is no turning lane in either direction.

“It's only a matter of time before we attend one of our neighbors’ funerals from this intersection. Rear end or a head on is inevitable,” wrote John Morrison, on the petition.

Morrison has owned a cabin on the lake since 1991 and he and his family have learned to take extra precautions whenever they approach the intersection from their home in Prince George.

“When you’re coming along and want to turn left onto the Lloyd, the traffic is coming behind you from the Bednesti side and I’m in the habit now of putting the turn indicator on at least a kilometre ahead as I’m slowing down and I eyeball the traffic coming down the hill to go in between vehicles and not have to come to a stop,” said Morrison.

“More than once we’ve had somebody pass us at 90 or 100 kilometres (per hour) on the inside on the dirt because they didn’t see us stopping and turning, because it’s a single lane. Past that, half a kilometre or less up the hill, it turns into a double passing lane and there’s a ton of room on that side so they would just have to widen the road up to the passing lane.”

Morrison said changes are also needed for eastbound traffic coming from Vanderhoof, who have to slow down enough to exit the highway and make a tight 60-degree bend onto the downhill-sloping Lloyd Drive. He said that turn is even more difficult for drivers hauling a boat trailer or camper and motorists coming down the long hill are forced to reduce their speed or even stop to avoid collisions with the turning vehicle.

Traffic on the highway has increased over the past year due to construction of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline to Kitimat and Morrison says the road will continue to see increasing vehicle volumes with the Endako mine near Fraser Lake expected to reopen.

The intersection was recommended for an upgrade that was supposed to happen in the spring of 2019, but the project was delayed and put on the ministry’s 10-year plan. The petition is asking the province make it a higher priority and come out with a guaranteed delivery date for the upgrades.

Gordon Holmes owns one of the 170 properties built on the south side of Clucultz and he started the petition about a month ago, which now has 403 respondents.

“This intersection is scary, there’s going to be a fatality there,” said Holmes. “It’s just a bad design. It’s an electronic petition and I couldn’t believe there was a flood of people saying, ‘That corner scares the heck out of me.

“One of the problems with the intersection is it’s way below the highway grade, and then you have dump a ton of speed. I’ve hit it at 70 and it’s spooky. You could really lose it.”

Holmes said passing on that section of highway should be prohibited, but there is a broken yellow line which designated it is allowed. He said motorists who turn right from Lloyd back onto the eastbound highway don’t always look to see what’s coming in their lane from the opposite direction, especially when a westbound driver is attempting a pass at a rapid rate of speed.

“A couple years ago I was hauling a boat in a vehicle full of people and I had my signal light on way back and the guy behind me realized what I was doing and slowed down and the guy behind him started to pass and almost T-boned us as we were turning and luckily I saw him and swerved the other way and he went by us,” said Holmes.

MOTI has drawn up a redesign plan which will widen the road to allow a passing lane on the westbound side of the highway and will reduce the sharpness of the turn required for eastbound traffic to make the turn onto Lloyd. Ministry officials met with Holmes and other residents and they worked out a plan that everybody was happy with, and he was surprised it wasn’t fixed two years ago as initially planned.

Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad has been aware of the problem intersection for years and he said work was set to begin on the upgrades in 2018 when the project was shelved with the change of government following the 2017 provincial election.

“Now, instead of it being on the five-year plan, which is work that’s scheduled, and there were also five passing lanes on Highway 16 that were part of that, all that now is on the 10-year plan which means there’s no real set date as to when it could be done, it just could be put forward if the budget gets allocated,” said Rustad, who plans to introduce the petition to the government this week in the legislature.

“My understanding is the local ministry people are pushing to actually resurrect that project and do the full passing lane and realignment of Lloyd Drive onto Highway 16 with lighting and deceleration lanes and left-hand turn lanes. If it doesn’t happen, the local ministry might be able to shift some money around to at least do the intersection of Lloyd and 16. It is a dangerous intersection. There have been a lot of close calls over the years. It needs to be done.”

In April, a landslide that affected a one-kilometre stretch of the highway between Lloyd and East Bay Road forced closure of one lane until crews could effect repairs and Rustad says drainage issues will have to be addressed in the road-widening project.