Province moving forward with controversial improvements to Stickle Road intersection in Vernon

FILE PHOTO - The province plans to move ahead with improvements to the intersection of Stickle Road and Highway 97 in Vernon.

VERNON – The Ministry of Transportation has announced it’s finally moving ahead with the Stickle Road improvement project in Vernon.

The controversial project has gone back to the drawing board several times over the last year and a half at a cost of roughly $370,000 as the ministry explored various options for the dangerous intersection of Stickle Road and Highway 97 just north of the city.

While the road improvements are going ahead, the Minister of Transportation Todd Stone says in a new release a traffic signal will not be installed, despite input from three open houses and feedback forums asking for a set of lights.

"Given that many of the comments we receive indicated a preference for a traffic signal to be installed, the ministry asked an independent road safety expert to compare the ministry's design with a traffic signal,” Stone says in the release. “While both improvement options were considered, the report concluded that a traffic signal is not supported as it would further increase the risk of rear-end collisions and delay traffic."

The project is expected to cost $9.5 million and the ministry claims a traffic signal would have carried a $7.8 million price tag.

The latest intersection design proposed by the ministry calls for an extension of the left turn lanes, the installation of acceleration and deceleration lanes and not allowing left turns onto the highway, according to the release. A new road will be built to connect Stickle Frontage Road to the end of 20 Street.

A ministry report says traffic lights on a road with a speed limit over 64 kilometres per hour reduces the number of collisions by five per cent and increase the number of rear-end crashes, while the intersection improvements proposed would reduce the number of collisions by 20 per cent.

The ministry has also addressed concerns raised by the public and conservation groups about the impact the intersection project will have on a wetland in the area. The North Okanagan Naturalists Club is worried the expansion will also destroy a popular walking trail.

The ministry says both geotechnical and environmental investigations have bee completed to make sure environmental impacts are mitigated “by improving fish habitat, planting native riparian vegetation, removing invasive plant species and installing bird and bat nesting boxes.”

It has also promised to rebuild the sections of the BX Creek corridor trail impacted by the improvements.

The design work is expected to be complete this fall with the province sending out tenders for the project early next year.

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