January 4, 2011
John Guenther, City Planner
City of Revelstoke
Cc: Theresa LeRose, Deputy Director of Corporate Administration, to be distributed to Mayor and Council
Dear Mr. Guenther,
We are writing to express our concern about the proposed closure of Mackenzie Avenue railway crossing recommended in the Transportation Master Plan. Just five years after this issue was thoroughly discussed by council and after citizens of CPR Hill/Clearview Heights organized and submitted a petition with 1467 signatures opposing a closure (copy attached), it is surprising and frustrating to have to revisit this again.
The Transportation Plan notes the potential for traffic accidents if drivers fail to stop at the stop signs on Victoria Road at the Mackenzie Avenue intersection. It suggests two fairly complicated options (a roundabout and a right in/right out option) and the option of closing the crossing. While the public preferred a roundabout or a ‘do-nothing’ option, the Plan recommends that the crossing be “fully” (p. 23) and “immediately” (p. 24) closed “due to the potential for collisions at this intersection.”
This recommendation begs the question of whether there has been a high number of accidents at this intersection and whether this intersection has a worse record than other intersections in town. In our collective memory there has only been one accident there involving the bicyclist, Mr. Fothergill, many years ago.
We know of many good reasons why this well-used intersection should remain open:
- First and foremost a full closure would cause inordinate hardship for pedestrians and cyclists and would undermine our safety and wellbeing. This well-used crossing serves residents, their visitors, CPR employees and recreationists who enjoy the many trails in the area. Mackenzie Avenue, with its cafes, stores and public entertainment, is the heart of Revelstoke; it is a major artery for reaching other houses downtown; and it leads to the high school and new elementary school. Forcing residents and their visitors – including children, seniors and people with disabilities – to walk/bike to the railway museum and back to Mackenzie Avenue on a road lacking a sidewalk and good lighting does not make sense from any perspective – even from a safety perspective.
- Full closure hits at the very essence of our community: CPR Hill/Clearview Heights is a place where residents can walk or bike to town quickly and easily while living in a beautiful natural environment.
- Full closure contradicts the goals of the transportation plan, which is to encourage people to walk and bike. It also contradicts the City’s environmental and emissions reductions goals. That extra distance and concerns about safety would make a difference in people’s decisions about whether to walk, bike or drive – especially for trips to town at night and trips involving seniors and children. As one parent of a young child said, “That extra distance would break my child. We couldn’t do it.” With the new elementary school being located at the end of Mackenzie Avenue, parents who would otherwise encourage their children to walk or bike to school may not feel safe having them walk around to Pearson Crossing and would prefer to drive them. Another resident recently sold her car to join Kootenay Car Share and would be severely affected by a crossing closure.
- Full closure discriminates against low income residents, friends and family members. CPR Hill/Clearview Heights has a vibrant young population and a number of low-income families and individuals, some of whom do not have cars.
- If people have to drive, this will exacerbate parking problems in the downtown area.
- We have serious safety concerns regarding a full or partial closure. With the frequent train traffic closing crossings there should be two public entryways for emergency vehicles. Also, as the road between MacKenzie Avenue and the Railway Museum on the CPR Hill/Clearview Heights side has no sidewalk, limited lighting and few houses around, walking and biking that route, especially at night, would be a big concern. This may particularly affect children, seniors and women. There are also safety issues as people might be tempted to cross the railway tracks at non-authorized places to avoid having to walk around.
- The Mackenzie Avenue/Victoria Street intersection is an important intersection for all kinds of users and it is important that it is not used primarily as a throughway for cars. The stop signs serve an important function, not only for the railway crossing, but also to slow cars down near Grizzly Plaza and the bear statues. The City has established Grizzly Plaza as a gathering place for entertainment, the market and other community activities. Children often play on the bear statues and tourists often pose near them. Tourists also cross Victoria Avenue to photograph trains. It is important that vehicles slow down and pay attention at this important intersection. Stop signs or a traffic light are the best way of accomplishing this.
Closing Mackenzie Avenue Crossing would also contradict amended bylaw 1813.3 that states: “The proposed design of the road improvements must limit non-local traffic traveling through the neighbourhoods, reduce traveling speeds and provide safe opportunities for pedestrians and cyclists” (http://www.cityofrevelstoke.com/bylaws/bylaws/1519-4.htm). For all these reasons we believe the crossing should stay open.
Finally, we are concerned about the inadequate notice that residents have had regarding this potential closure. According to CPR Hill resident Alan Dennis, a potential crossing closure was not presented as a serious option at the Transportation Open House earlier in 2010. When he, Laura Stovel and Peter Cameron attended the Clearview Heights community meeting in September this issue was not mentioned. We commend the planning department staff for their hard work in organizing these community meetings. However, if they are to be meaningful and well attended, matters important to neighbourhoods should be raised, even in the form of a ‘heads up.’ Instead we learned about this recommendation when one resident read the Transportation Plan. It came as a complete surprise to us all.
Notice on important neighbourhood matters like these should not be left to chance and Revelstoke residents should not feel that they need to be vigilant (thus distrustful) to protect our interests. The city should have a policy of notifying residents personally if important neighbourhood matters arise – as it does in some cases. Mail notification was provided to neighbourhood residents in the case of the Last Drop liquor license. This recommended crossing closure is at least as important.
Thank you for considering this letter. Please feel free to contact us if you have further questions.