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McDONALD: Sorry Mission but the South Perimeter Way is a road to nowhere

February 02, 2018 - 12:45 PM

OPINION


Mission Madness. Mission Mess. If you live in anywhere in the Mission and have need to leave in the morning for work or school, you may already have heard the derogatory term.

Or perhaps you have your own term, maybe unprintable, for the super-city-sized rush hour traffic jam that can swallow up drivers trying to get out of the city’s southern reaches.

Much growth has taken place at that end of the city in the last 20 years and city councillors now hear regularly from disgruntled residents about time-swallowing commutes that should take 15 minutes, but instead last 35.

So it wasn’t hard in 2015 to get broad support from local residents when surveyed about the possible construction of the blandly named South Perimeter Way, an arterial road that would connect the top of Gordon Drive with Stewart Road West and ultimately Casorso Road at Mission Creek.

Driving the accelerated construction of the road — it’s in the city’s transportation plan but viewed as not needed until 2030 — is the development community, which have been very busy in the last few years building houses on the South Slopes with plans for a lot more.

Now Kelowna council is considering using the alternative approval process asking voters across the city if it should contract with Pond Ventures Inc. to build the road for $10.76 million, to be paid back by development cost charges.

This road has been at least partially sold as relief from Mission Madness but I don’t see how it’s going to accomplish its goal.

One look at the map shows the South Perimeter Way will be looping out through empty land and then punching north before ending up somewhere near the Carsorso roundabout, right where Swamp Road — one of the other routes out of the Mission — joins up too.

The pinch points getting out of the Mission have always been the bridges over Mission Creek on Lakeshore Drive, Gordon Drive and Casorso Road and this road does nothing to change that.

Without adding a fourth crossing of the creek, traffic will always bunch up at the bridges, rendering the South Perimeter Way useless as a way to eliminate congestion.

Common road planning wisdom says building more roads to relieve traffic congestion just prompts more people to drive leading to more congestion, something Mayor Colin Basran touched on during his recent State of the City speech to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.

The city struggles to get drivers out of their cars as it is and this will only encourage more entrants into the Mission Madness.

Building a road 12 years early at the behest of a developer in an area already known for sprawl would seem to violate all those principles and one more besides; why should taxpayers in the rest of the city have to guarantee a contract so the developer can build a road that will benefit…developers?

I covered this story when transportation staff first broached the subject with council in 2015. There was no mention then of an alternative approval process then and the cost was estimated at $7.6 million.

There are certainly reasons to build this road, not least being better egress and access during emergencies and natural disasters. I wasn’t that long ago the Okanagan Mountain Park fire ripped through the area.

But I think they are heavily outweighed by reasons not to support the premature construction of a road that seems to go nowhere.

I can only assume council wants to put this to the alternative approval process because they don’t want to be seen as approving it themselves, given it will help developers much more than it will help local residents.

It’s going to take 10 per cent of registered Kelowna voters to defeat this proposal. Get your alternative approval process form from Kelowna City Hall and show them you don’t want it either.

— John McDonald is a long-time reporter, editor and photographer from the Central Okanagan with a strong curiosity about local affairs. You can reach him at jmcdonald@infonews.ca.


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