Province keeps door open for highway improvements

But hasn’t commited itself to financing work

The provincial transportation ministry is to do a preliminary engineering study on project options and associated costs on improvements to North Nadina Drive and Tweedie Ave.

The news follows a long-standing request by the District of Houston to construct more efficient and safer access to Hwy 16 from the locations.

And it’s keeping the door open to another District request — to improve the Hwy16 corridor through the town.

“The ministry understands the importance of corridor improvements through Houston and regularly partners with the District on such projects,” it said in a provided statement regarding the District’s wishes.

“No commitment has been made to partner with the District in specific improvement to the Hwy16 corridor. However, the ministry will continue to meet with the District to discuss this and other opportunities.”

The District of Houston, through a 2018 master transportation plan, outlined what it calls “the unique traffic needs of large commercial vehicles” to gain access to the industrial park.

The plan has laid out a vision of widening Hwy16, upgrading North Nadina Drive to allow for two-way traffic and redesigning and improving turning lanes.

An added complication is the Tweedie Ave. railway crossing causing traffic backups and delays when trains are passing through.

“These traffic blockages cause several safety concerns and risks, including the use of improper turning lanes,” the District stated in a briefing note prepared for provincial transportation minister Claire Trevena.

The District’s pursuit of monies to improve the Hwy16 corridor centres on increasing the visual appeal of the District to residents and visitors.

Doing so would involve replacing sidewalks, installing crosswalks, lighting and stoplights to increase pedestrian safety, says the District.

“The improvement in walkability from these additions will help redirect visitors into the downtown core where they can access goods and services provided by local businesses,” another briefing note for Trevena states.

But that work would come with a cost of more than $1 million, the District has estimated, and it’s that cost the District wishes the transportation ministry to absorb.

Of that amount, between $680,000 and $800,000 would be needed for sidewalks on the southside of Hwy 16 from Butler Ave. to the Buck Creek Bridge and approximately $300,000 for each traffic light.

One highway improvement and beautification project that is proceeding is placing utility services such as BC Hydro lines underground.

The first phase, called Phase 2A, involves placing lines underground from between Butler Ave. and 9th Street.

The District is now submitting a grant application to BC Hydro for Phase 2B, placing B.C. Hydro lines and other services underground from 9th Street to Buck Creek.

“Pending timing and B.C. Hydro’s internal processes for completing the work, this could also allow for the full scope of work to be carried out over the course of a single year, as opposed to two completely separate phases,” a report to council from District chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck states.

The District, subject to final determination, has placed the Phase 2B cost at $450,000, one-third of which it hopes B.C. Hydro will provide.

“The District would pay for the remainder along with appropriate cost sharing with Telus and CityWest for their lines,” said Pinchbeck.

He said the District’s portion would come from its surplus.