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Upgrade on the books for contentious intersection in Port Alberni

Province promises survey, changes at Beaver Creek and River Roads in 2021
Cars on Beaver Creek Road wait to turn left onto River Road on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. The intersection has been contentious for years as residents have asked for a light or roundabout to improve traffic flow. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Traffic improvements could be coming for the intersection of Beaver Creek Road and River Road in Port Alberni.

Mayor Sharie Minions received the good news Sept. 16, 2020 during a virtual meeting with B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena, as part of the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities’ conference.

“We’ve been working with the province for quite a while, trying to get them to make some improvements on Johnston Road,” Minions said. Highway 4 travels the length of Johnston Road as it goes through Port Alberni, turns right onto River Road past Clutesi Haven Marina. Several kilometres past the city it becomes Pacific Rim Highway on the way to Ucluelet and Tofino.

Among the improvements the city has been lobbying for are better pedestrian safety on lower Johnston, and “significant” improvements to the intersection of River Road and Beaver Creek Road.

“Last year at UBCM we asked them to do a study to give some options. We were really impressed they actually did that right away, within a couple of months.”

Council recently received the study, although it hasn’t been made public yet by the provincial government, Minions said.

“We’ve had some input on it. This year at the UBCM, which is virtual and very strange, my meeting with Minister Claire Trevena was a couple of days ago. We asked them to pursue the Beaver Creek intersection as a priority. They committed to doing the land survey and preliminary plans in 2021 for making a change there.”

Minions would not reveal the type of change the ministry is studying for the intersection, saying it is up to the provincial government to make the announcement. “Following the land survey they will be doing quite a bit of public engagement as well. The city will support them in that, but it will be led by the province.

“At this point, it’s all paid for by the province. So we’re really thrilled with that.”

People at Clutesi Haven Marina celebrated the news on Thursday. “It has been needed for some time,” said William Ambrose, who recently opened Mr. Chips food truck at the marina. He said he has had a lot of time to watch traffic patterns at the intersection.

“I notice the wait times are longer than any other intersection in town.”

Traffic at that intersection has been a bone of contention with Alberni Valley residents for more than a decade. A traffic study was completed a number of years ago, and the provincial government said at the time there wasn’t enough traffic going through the intersection to warrant a change.

Minions said the focus has changed as a result of municipal government pressure, and improving traffic flow—especially for vehicles attempting to turn left from Beaver Creek to River Road, or out of the marina and onto River Road—is now a priority.

“They’ve indicated to us they recognize when you have a highway through your community, that the provincial government has a responsibility to make sure it works for your community. We’ve made that our top priority, and they’re really supporting that work.”

Any change to the intersection will be a significant improvement to traffic flow and for pedestrian safety and vehicle safety in the area, she added.

“Anyone who lives in that area knows it’s a challenge coming from Beaver Creek. It’s also an area where we’ve seen quite a few car accidents and a lot of almost-car accidents. A lot of near-misses happen in that area. It’s been a priority of council’s to improve the traffic flow.”

A change to the intersection will also allow visitors to stop at Clutesi Haven more easily, or turn around and return to Port Alberni, she added.

“We want to make the road flow better for tourists and for residents.”

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Turning left onto River Road (Highway 4) from Beaver Creek Road, or out of Clutesi Haven Marina will get easier, the Ministry of Transportation has decided. A land survey will take place in 2021 to ease traffic burdens at the intersection. September 2020 (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I have been the Alberni Valley News editor since August 2006.
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