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Columbia Street changes get people talking

People packed into a small meeting room Wednesday night to see the preliminary plans for the rehabilitation of Columbia Street.
February 06, 2014 - 4:26 PM

KAMLOOPS — Too many medians and too few bike paths were among the comments at the preliminary public information session about the work set for Columbia Street next year.

More than 60 people packed the room while Capital Projects Manager Kristen Meersman gave an overview of the project and by the end of the two hour session about 100 people had stopped by for a look at the plans.

She says the route between 3 Avenue and 6 Avenue sees about 20,000 vehicle trips every 24 hours. In an effort to address some of the safety issues that were identified the city is looking at adding a median to stop traffic from turning left onto 2 Avenue, add turning lanes at each intersection and better time the lights. Widening the sidewalks, enhancing landscapes and reviewing bus stop locations are also on the drawing board.

Meersman says she is very pleased with the turnout, which was better than she hoped for, even though she didn't anticipate the amount of interest in bike paths that came out of the meeting. Luckily Engineering Manager Deven Matkowski was on hand to answer the many questions about the bike routes in the downtown area and changes cyclists can expect to see in the near future.

That left Meersman to talk to people more interested in the closure of the left hand turn onto 2 Avenue and the impact the list of changes will have on traffic.

“2 Avenue is something we talked about lots,” she says. “There were also lots of questions about how traffic will change functionally.”

Concern was also raised about jay-walkers in the area and whether adding meridians where they can stand amidst traffic was the best idea while others who live in the West End were more concerned over the closure of the turn onto 2 Avenue.

Polly McCreadie lives in the 600 block of Columbia and says since she moved there 34 years ago they've been talking about widening her stretch of road and it's something she would like to see done sooner rather than later.

“There's an increase of cars and an increase of pedestrians and lots of bikes on the sidewalk,” she says. “There's limited space on the road too, my vehicle has been hit and I know others that have been hit as well.”

She says she is confused as to why the city would not do work further up Columbia Street while addressing the three-block stretch that ends just before her house.

“If they're going to spend this money, why not go to at least 8 Avenue?” she says, adding that's a very dangerous corner for both pedestrians and vehicles because of the high school further up.

The city is still accepting comments on the project until Feb. 14 and then will send a brief memo to council outlining the plan and the public feedback in March. Detailed designs are expected to be complete by the summer at which point the project will go before council for a borrowing bylaw. Meersman says they will probably go back to the public again with the final plans at that point.

Matkowski, who spent nearly the whole evening discussing bike routes, says while the Columbia Street corridor has not been identified as the proper corridor for cyclists Nicola Street has been and work is planned to put in roundabouts at some intersections so that cyclists will not have to worry about stopping at every intersection. While some people still pushed him to consider Columbia Street as a proper corridor he says the Bike Master Plan currently doesn't and it would require additional land to accommodate.

“The corridor is limited and I don't know this would be the cheapest place for a bike corridor,” he says. “It's not inexpensive.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email, call (250)819-3723 or tweet @JennStahn.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
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