By David F. Rooney
The crossing arms at Mackenzie Crossing were installed, after much controversy and public discussion, only six years ago yet now there is already a serious recommendation to City Council that the crossing be closed completely.
The recommendation is included in the City’s draft Transportation Master Plan (click here to read the plan) because, say the consultants who wrote it, there is a “potential that a vehicle or vehicles (2 or more) may be stopped on the CPR tracks.”
The recommendation flies in the face of public preferences that were clearly expressed at the open house held to discuss the master plan last fall. The recommendation even acknowledges that saying, “Although the roundabout and do-nothing (options) were preferred by the public at the open house it is recommended that the north leg of MacKenzie Avenue be closed.”
Now, to be fair to the City this is only a recommendation and Mayor David Raven made a point of stressing that it was “only an option” when the issue was raised at the end of an extremely brief special Council meeting on Wednesday, but residents on CPR Hill are nonetheless not very happy about it. And why shouldn’t they be?
Without the crossing access to their neighbourhood will be limited to the Pearson Crossing and the unpaved and bone-rattling CPR access road that runs from the south end of Track Street East along the tracks and then up the slope to connect at the unmarked intersection with the Eastern Access. (Anyone who thinks this is an acceptable alternative is deluded. But that’s just my opinion.)
In a letter they have submitted to Council, residents Laura Stovel and Karen Matthews noted:
“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.” (Click here to read the full text of their letter)
Stovel has written a column for The Current that calls for better public consultations when a neighbourhood is likely to be deeply affected by a report and its recommendations. (Click here to read her column)
In the meantime, here are the verbatim options and recommendation as outlined in the Transportation Master Plan:
Option 1 – MacKenzie Avenue Right In/Right Out
The potential concern with stopping traffic on the north leg of MacKenzie Avenue is the potential that a vehicle or vehicles (2 or more) may be stopped on the CPR tracks. Left turning and through traffic have the greatest potential to queue since they have to find a gap in all four lanes of traffic. Therefore this option would restrict the north leg to right in/right out.
The advantages of this option are it allows for the removal of the stop signs on Victoria Road, reduces conflicts and allows for a pedestrian refuge on the west crossing of Victoria Road. The disadvantages are there is still the potential for stopping on the tracks and more circuitous routing for left turning traffic.
Option 2 – Close North Leg of MacKenzie Avenue
This option would fully close the north leg of MacKenzie Avenue. This option eliminates the potential for vehicles stopping on the railway tracks, but requires circuitous routing using Track Street to Townley Road or Long Avenue. Track Street east will require upgrading as portions of the road are narrow and gravel; however, Track Street west ties into Long Avenue which has a traffic signal at Victoria Road. This option also provides a pedestrian refuge opportunity on Victoria Road, reduces conflicts at the intersection and eliminates the stop signs on Victoria Road.
Option 3 – Roundabout
This option would replace the stop controlled intersection with a roundabout. This option would provide pedestrian crossings on all four legs, with refuges. This option also reduces conflicts, removes the stop signs on Victoria Road, and provides the ability to further enhance the MacKenzie Avenue gateway to downtown Revelstoke. The disadvantages of this option are property requirements and the close proximity to the railway and the potential for vehicles to stop on the tracks.
Although the roundabout and do-nothing were preferred by the public at the open house it is recommended that the north leg of MacKenzie Avenue be closed. This option eliminates the potential for stopping on the tracks. While vehicles will have a slightly more circuitous route, especially from the east, there is signalized access to the Clearview Heights area via the traffic signal at Long Avenue/Victoria Road. This road closure should be undertaken immediately due to the potential for collisions at this intersection.
Former mayor Mark McKee, who was responsible for installation — at a cost of about $300,000, of which about $100,000 came from the City and the rest from the CPR and Transport Canada — of the crossing bars at the intersection, said that while the recommendation may upset some people it’s important to remember that “that’s all it is.”
“When Council hires consultants it expects that their report will cover all the bases and bring back recommendations or options on all of them,” he said Monday afternoon. “But that’s all they are. Council gets to decide what actually happens after the public has had an opportunity to comment.”
The Current will be happy to print any and all comments from residents about the plan and recommends that they also be directed to members of City Council and the Planning Department.