The city is about to start looking at ways to ease traffic congestion and improve road safety in Chase River and the Cinnabar Valley in south Nanaimo.
City councillors Sheryl Armstrong and Tyler Brown brought forward a motion at a council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 21, to have city staff study the extent of work and money needed to come up with a mobility plan for the area that includes automobile, pedestrian, public transit, bicycle and other accessible transportation modes.
The information compiled would be reviewed at a brainstorming session at a future governance and priorities committee meeting to help form a vision or framework for a plan to fix traffic problems in south Nanaimo.
“We’ve heard a lot from Chase River area, especially Extension,” Armstrong said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve met with neighbourhood groups and the schools and everybody to deal with this and I think we have to start biting the bullet and really putting a plan in there.”
According to ICBC statistics from 2016 to 2021, there have been 145 vehicle collisions on the corridor that includes Cranberry Avenue and Extension Road to White Rapids Road. Seventy-nine of those crashes, some resulting in fatalities, occurred at the highway intersection at Cranberry.
“It’s probably one of our worst injury accident areas and we’ve done nothing to try and fix it,” Armstrong said.
Coun. Brown said creating a transportation plan for the area will be challenging and he does not believe transportation infrastructure upgrades that might come from the proposed Sandstone development – a major project that includes 3,000 homes plus commercial and industrial districts in both Chase River and Cedar – will solve transportation issues in the area.
“What would it look like to do a planning exercise? Ideally, that would come to a [committee meeting] at the same time as that discussion with the community because then we can talk about something rather than just hearing the concerns of the community,” Brown said. “It’s not to say let’s go out and fund this and plan it immediately.”
Brown noted a lot of work has already been done relative to mobility plans, especially by the Regional District of Nanaimo with its transit redevelopment strategy, that could inform the discussion about Cinnabar Valley and Chase River and future planning exercises. Compiling existing and new information and feedback could reveal other options to be explored, he said.
“There’s a very congested area or a bottleneck when it comes to automobile traffic,” Brown said. “I don’t think buses or bike lanes or anything like that it going to solve the issue, but it is all important factors if we’re to look at this area more cohesively and I think the timing is right because staff have been floating options around the ReImagine Nanaimo process and seeking council’s guidance.”
Jake Rudolph, city chief administration officer, suggested a brainstorming session at the committee level to discuss the information currently available about current and future transportation projects in the area. Bill Sims, city manager engineering and public works, said city staff could bring council up to speed on the latest developments in transportation planning between the city and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“I think there are some updates for council. Things have moved forward with the community and with the ministry … and Sandstone as well, so there’s these two parallel processes,” Sims said. “Regardless of how Sandstone proceeds, it’s really between the city and road authorities, as it were, to solve some of the issues.”
Council voted unanimously to review the latest information on transportation plans and connectivity challenges at a future governance and priorities committee meeting.