Posted on 19 December 2012 by Keith Lacey
Town of Osoyoos council is strongly considering lowering the speed limit along two of the town’s busiest roads during the peak tourist season. Meanwhile, council has also voted in favour of asking the provincial Ministry of Transportation to come up with a temporary plan to increase safety on the bridge on Main Street that separates the western and eastern portions of the town.
Council will also send a letter to the ministry to try and ramp up pressure for the provincial government to provide funding to eventually replace the bridge in the next couple of years.
The town’s 2012 Traffic Safety Committee has reviewed two consulting reports that relate to the movement of traffic in the community. As a result, the committee has recommended implementing a season speed limit of 30 km/hour from May 15 to September 15 along Lakeshore Drive and also year-round on Cottonwood Drive from Maple Street to the end of the drive.
Council voted to accept the recommendations of the committee in principle and direct staff to develop a report to council for formal consideration and a decision early in 2013.
Because there is so much vehicular and pedestrian traffic along Lakeshore Drive and Cottonwood Drive during the peak tourist season, the timing is right to lower the speed limit to 30 km/hour, said Mayor Stu Wells.
However, Wells and other members of council were not in favour of a recommendation by Coun. Sue McKortoff to have the speed limit reduced to 30 km/hour year-round along Lakeshore Drive.
Wells said the residents who live along Lakeshore Drive or close to it would be upset if the speed limit was this low once the tourists leave town.
“Can you imagine driving along that road on, say November 17 and there’s not a car in sight or a pedestrian or a child?” he asked. “I just don’t know if the people who live there would follow what … and I’m worried it might become some sort of speed trap.”
Coun. Michael Ryan agreed.
“To drive 30 kilometres an hour down there now would seem ludicrous,” he said.
Because there are so many residences along Cottonwood Drive, it also makes sense to lower the speed limit to 30 km/hour year-round from Maple to the end of Cottonwood, he said.
It might be a good idea to install mobile signs that show motorists exactly how fast they are driving along Lakeshore Drive during the peak tourist season, said Ryan.
“There’s a lot of signage available …and it’s needed in the busy summer period,” he said.
Wells said because there are no curbs or sidewalks along most of Lakeshore Drive, he would like to see the reduced speed limit implemented as quickly as possible and signage posted well in advance of the 2013 tourist season next spring.
Council has already committed to spending almost $300,000 to pave Cottonwood Drive from Hwy. 3 to the end of the road, while also installing curbs and sidewalks to as far as the Sage Pub early next spring.
Once those upgrades are completed, it makes sense to lower the speed limit as this is another street that is extremely busy during tourist season and remains busy year-round with a lot of residential development, said Ron Doucette, the town’s director of operational services.
After a lengthy discussion, council voted in favour of posting their plans to lower the speed limit on both streets in advertisements in the Osoyoos Times in early 2013, before the issue is brought before council for a final vote.
During the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting in Victoria in September, members of Town of Osoyoos council and staff made it very clear to Ministry of Transportation officials that replacing the town’s bridge was one of its main priorities, said Wells.
“If they (ministry) don’t do something … I think it incredibly increases our liability,” he said.
“They have to do something. I think this has to be made clear in a letter brought formally to the Ministry of Transportation. We have talked about this for a long time and we’re so exposed now.”
Coun. Mike Plante agreed saying any letter sent to the ministry should make it very clear a temporary solution to increase safety near the bridge is acceptable in the short term, but the long-term solution – to replace the bridge – must also be clearly detailed.
“I think we will get the bridge eventually, but we do need a temporary fix and to highlight the liability issues we’re facing,” said Ryan.