Changes and traffic disruptions are coming to one of the busiest roads in Nanaimo.
The City of Nanaimo is preparing to move forward with a series of upgrades to a section of Bowen Road spanning from Island Highway to Labieux Road.
According to the city’s website, the estimated $2-million project will see a new water main installed and about 500 metres of Bowen Road completely ripped up and replaced. Improvements to intersections, a boulevard with trees and raised bike lanes are also included in the project.
During a council meeting late last month, Bill Sims, the city’s general manager of engineering and public works, provided a brief update to councillors on the project, saying that staff are preparing to move ahead with it. He also said the water main needs to be upgraded to a larger size and the pavement is very old must be replaced.
Speaking to the News Bulletin, Sims said the city isn’t entirely sure when exactly construction will begin or how long it will last, but the goal is to see the project completed before the winter.
“Once construction starts, it will be very disruptive because that section of Bowen Road is probably one of our busiest,” he said. “Just replacing the water main is going to quite disruptive to traffic.”
An estimated 20,000 vehicles travel on Bowen Road each day, according to the city. There are also multiple car dealerships and dozens of other businesses that are located along with the 500-metre chunk of Bowen Road that the city is planning to upgrade.
“We’ve been pretty careful to have some good interaction with mostly the businesses along that stretch of road because it is going to be disruptive to their normal pattern of traffic,” Sims said.
With the existing water main nearing the end of its “useful life” and the pavement along Bowen Road needing to be replaced, Sims said it only makes sense to do both projects at the same time.
“When we see that a road has deteriorated to a certain point, we want to resurface that road and that is the case with Bowen Road between the Island Highway and Labieux Road,” he said. “When we’re undertaking those projects, we also examine the utilities to see what shape they’re in and we will typically use this opportunity to replace those utilities if needed.”
The improvements to Bowen Road will see the width of vehicle lanes reduced in order to accommodate raised bike lanes, according to Sims. He said the bike lane will also connect with new bike lanes along Labieux Road, which will form what the city calls the ‘off-Bowen bikeway,’ a planned westbound cycling corridor that runs parallel with Bowen Road.
“Just down Labieux Road there is a connection to what will eventually become our off-Bowen bikeway,” he said. “It will travel from Labieux Road into downtown to essentially Wakesiah.”
Not included in the planned upgrades are dedicated bus stop lanes, sometimes known as bus lay-bys. Sims said those can’t be added along that stretch of Bowen Road because there isn’t much space.
“We’re constrained on both sides, not only by the property lines but also the location of the existing sidewalk,” he said, adding. “We simply don’t have the room.”
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