Living in the country may slow down the pace of life, but not necessarily the pace of passing vehicles.
Fruitvale resident Ingrid Mayer is spearheading a campaign to reduce the speed limit on a stretch of Highway 3B beginning at Old Salmo Road going east half a kilometre.
The plea to “slow down” from Mayer and neighbouring landowners, comes after years of near misses turning into their driveways and an increase in wildlife collisions in that area.
“There are many residents along this section of the highway who are very concerned about the traffic,” said Mayer.
“The problem is excessive speed. Safety has become a serious issue for residents and wildlife along this corridor.”
Mayer began a petition to address property owner concerns with a request to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoT) that the speed limit be reduced and to improve visibility of wildlife crossing signage.
The catalyst to petition came after a young moose that been habituating the area for a year, was hit by a passing vehicle, and had to be euthanized by the RCMP.
Although Mayer concedes that speed may not have been a factor, more warnings of wildlife crossings might remind drivers to use greater caution.
“This particular area of the highway runs next to marshy fields and Beaver Creek where many animals wander,” explained Mayer. “We are not calling for drastic measures. Signs warning drivers of ‘high impact’ (wildlife) and to drive slower isn’t asking for the moon.”
A leisurely half-hour stroll down that area of road Tuesday evening was anything but relaxing.
Dozens of loaded semi trailers, numerous pickups and cars roared by, because the speed limit posted is 90 km/hr. A “Slow to 70 km/hr” sign is posted driving west into Fruitvale, but vehicles rarely slow down, said Mayer.
“The traffic is generally very heavy with an assortment of vehicles including ore, logging and semi-trailer trucks,” she said. “I have grandchildren who visit regularly and I worry about what could happen if one got away from me, in the blink of an eye.”
Although Mayer lives in Area A, she has requested Fruitvale council to address the petition at its next meeting Sept. 9.
“The area Ms. Mayer is concerned about is not within village limits or under our control” said Lila Cresswell, Fruitvale’s chief administrative officer (CAO).
“But I did forward her petition to the Ministry and council will consider her request for a letter of support at our next meeting.”
John McLean, CAO for the regional district, said the petition has not been presented to the board or Area A director Ali Grieve. Until that time, no opinion or the matter to support the principal can be made, but the issue is outside the district’s jurisdiction.
Since June 1, there has been two motor vehicle incidents reported in that area of the highway, said Sgt. Rob Hawton, of the Trail and Greater District RCMP.
Hawton explained that not much evidence of excessive speed contrary to the signs is available, however the winding nature of the road contributes to difficulties of people entering the highway from driveways in that section.
“We have not targeted that area specifically but will give it more attention now,” he confirmed.
Mayer said she has tried to connect with representatives from the MoT and the local MLA, but no one has responded.
When contacted by the Trail Times, Kate Trotter, spokesman for the MoT said that the Ministry will consider any request for safety improvements. “Speed limits in B.C. are established so that the majority of motorists comply voluntarily,” she said in an email response, adding, “the Ministry will bring local residents’ concerns about speeding to the attention of the RCMP.”
Current speed profile (how fast people generally travel), adjacent land use, traffic volume and collision history are factors used to determine a speed zone.
“I invite anybody from the Ministry to come and have a little walk along this road with their grandchildren,” said Mayer. “They will soon see how terrifying it is. Enough is enough.”
The petition comes on the heels of another traffic safety concern addressed at Fruitvale council last fall.
After a child was struck by a passing vehicle Halloween Night, at the pedestrian crossing of Highway 3B and Nelson Ave. next to the Villagers Pub and Hotel, council petitioned the MoT for additional lighting and enhanced safety features at that site.
Lila Cresswell, chief administrative officer for the village, said that particular crosswalk has been the scene of numerous near-misses and Fruitvale has approached the Ministry for improved safety at the crossing since the ‘90s.
Finally, the MoT has acknowledged the safety issue.
“A modern light standard with stronger lighting capabilities will be installed at Hwy 3B/Nelson Ave., during the summer construction season,” confirmed Cresswell.
In addition, Ministry engineers are reviewing pedestrian crossings at Columbia Gardens and Hwy 3B, and downtown Fruitvale between Liberty Foods and Subway and Kootenay Savings and Falkins Insurance, explained Cresswell. “They are working at a plan to make those areas safer in next year’s (MoT) budget.”