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LETTER: Port Alberni’s wide roads are a hindrance, not a help

From runoff to lack of shade, roads are past their prime, says resident

To the Editor,

Port Alberni has a pavement problem.

One of the most frequent comments I hear from visitors to Port Alberni has to do with the roads. We have remarkably wide roads in town, far wider than most other communities of our size in Canada. For example, Argyle Street between 10th Avenue and Third Avenue is 24 metres wide curb-to-curb, which is nine metres wider than Broadway in Vancouver. Most residential streets in town are 50 percent wider than in Parksville, Qualicum Beach or Nanaimo.

So why is this an issue? First, roads produce a lot of runoff during rain. The city does not have a fully separated sewer system, which means that road runoff during rain will lead to backflow of untreated sewage directly into the ocean. A recent estimate by the city engineering department states that raw sewage outflow may occur up to 171 days per year.

Second, wide roads are not safe for pedestrians. Not only do wider roads encourage drivers to speed, they present a longer distance for pedestrians to cross. This poses a particular challenge for folks with mobility issues.

Finally, paved areas make cities hotter, as concrete and asphalt absorb and store heat. Port Alberni is already a hot place in the summer, and is projected to get warmer in the not-so-distant future. Vegetated areas, on the other hand, help to cool cities and provide shade.

Wide streets don’t make sense anymore—consider the value of narrower, shadier roads instead.

Dave Reid,

Port Alberni