Nanaimo council approves upgrades for much-maligned intersection

By Ian Holmes
May 16, 2017 - 4:48pm Updated: May 16, 2017 - 5:19pm

Nanaimo council agreed to fix this challenging intersection, but it's not clear when the overhaul will happen.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — City Council wants to vastly overhaul one of Nanaimo's worst intersections, however it's not clear when upgrades are coming or how much they'll cost.

After deciding to defer dealing with the troublesome Northfield Rd., Boundary Ave., Island Hwy. intersection one year ago, council voted Monday night to move ahead with improvements.

Roughly half of the City's overall estimated bill for the project is related to rail crossing upgrades, according to a staff report. The City is required to complete upgrades to the rail crossing to bring it into complaince with current regulations.

Several councillors voiced concerns over those costs given the uncertain future of passenger rail. The motion to move ahead with the work passed by a 5-3 vote, with councillors Kipp, Fuller and Bestwick opposed.

“I can't be convinced that anything is going to happen differently with rail in the near future and I don't want to be here a year from now dealing with this intersection again,” coun. Ian Thorpe said. “It's a very dangerous intersection.”

A 2016 staff report called for several improvements to the intersection, including a dedicated left turn lane from Northfield Rd. onto Boundary Ave., dedicated left and right turn lanes from Northfield onto the highway and a southbound acceleration lane when merging onto the highway.

Diagram of planned improvements:

 

The City of Nanaimo and provincial government have agreed to split the project's costs. Fixing the intersection was budgeted at $3 million last year. The City's senior manager of engineering Poul Rosen told NanaimoNewsNOW it's safe to assume costs will go up, but it's unclear by how much.

The City expected the project likely won't get started this year due to staff shortages.

Coun. Bill Bestwick said while safety is a concern, he's not in favour of “spending millions of dollars” on rail upgrades. “I prefer for our future to see rails removed.”

“If we delay longer we're likely to just see more accidents, we're likely to see more injuries and there have been deaths there,” coun. Diane Brennan said.

The latest ICBC data indicates there were 54 crashes at Northfield Rd., Boundary Ave., and the Island Hwy. in 2015, the eighth most at any intersection on Vancouver Island.

Passenger rail service on Vancouver island has been shut down since 2011 due to poor rail conditions. The Island Corridor Foundation has been unsuccessful over the last several years restarting the service.

 

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