The City of Port Alberni is planning changes to two of its busiest intersections to make them safer for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers.
Both the 10th Avenue and Redford Street intersection and the 10th Avenue and Dunbar Street intersection will be getting some safety upgrades.
During a virtual council meeting on Sept. 7, director of engineering and public works Rob Dickinson said the main safety concerns for the intersections are a lack of cycle facilities, the high number of collisions and severity of collisions. Both intersections have been the site of a cyclist fatality and are two of the top 15 busiest intersections in the city.
With both intersections, the city will be painting green separated “bike boxes” that give cyclists a safe route through the intersection.
The improvements for 10th and Redford are “simple street painting” at this time, said Dickinson, but the city will be looking at reconstruction of the intersection within the next five to 10 years.
“With paint at this time, we can drastically improve the safety of this intersection,” said Dickinson.
The construction on 10th and Dunbar will be a “bit more intensive,” said Dickinson. Rapid flashing beacons will replace the pedestrian signs at the crosswalk, and the curbs will be “bumped out” to slow traffic and reduce the amount of time that pedestrians spend in the crosswalks.
Most significantly, the left turn lanes from 10th Avenue onto Dunbar will be removed, and signs will be put up prohibiting left-hand turns.
Dickinson said this will reduce the complexity of the intersection and reduce some of the truck traffic in the area. Most people turning left onto Dunbar, he said, are using it as a shortcut to get to Anderson Avenue.
“Dunbar is a local road,” said Dickinson. “It was a road that was never meant or designed for that level of traffic, especially with residential houses and the narrower road.”
City staff talked about making Dunbar a one-way street or a cul-de-sac, but the costs would be much higher than just eliminating left-hand turns.
Dickinson emphasized that the city is focusing on safety, rather than convenience, with these upgrades.
The city consulted with Cycle Alberni on these improvements, and Cycle Alberni chair John Mayba told council he was pleased to have input on the projects.
“It’s a real challenge to work on these intersections in such a way that we’re going to be meeting the needs of both the drivers and the cyclists, and the pedestrians as well,” said Mayba.
Council has agreed to allocate $55,000 from the 2021-2025 budget for both projects. The estimated total cost for both projects is $155,000 but the city already has some funding available. Dickinson said ICBC will also be providing some funding for the improvements.
Councillor Ron Corbeil said that he did not like the idea of the new bike lanes.
“It’s better to get [bikes] off into neighbourhood streets where it’s quiet and there’s less traffic,” said Corbeil. “I think riding down 10th Avenue is not the right thing to do in the first place.”
Mayor Sharie Minions agreed, but liked the bike lanes as a “short-term” option.
“I hope that we’ll have more options to safely get around the community for people of all ages and all abilities in the coming years,” she said. “These are great options for now. I appreciate that we’re focusing on safety, rather than convenience.”
Councillors Corbeil, Ron Paulson and Cindy Solda voted against the changes to 10th and Dunbar. Paulson said he voted against these changes because he wanted to see improvements to the 10th Avenue and Argyle Street intersection before eliminating the left-hand turns on 10th Avenue.
Minions also expressed some concern about the 10th Avenue and Argyle Street four-way stop getting backed up once the left-hand turns are eliminated. Dickinson said the city has recently completed a network screening study with conceptual designs for improvements to many of the intersections in town—including 10th and Argyle. The study is currently undergoing reviews and will be presented to council at a future meeting.