Solution sought for traffic jams on highway

NANAIMO – Provincial government in talks with emergency services, RCMP to move traffic at Nanoose flats.

The B.C. government is looking at ways to break up major traffic jams in Nanoose Bay, following a serious crash that halted traffic for up to six hours last year.

The Ministry of Transportation has been in consultation with emergency providers since last fall on options to get traffic moving after major crashes.

The Highway 19 corridor between Nanoose and Lantzville is the only route to reach the south Island and with no way to re-route traffic through opposing lanes, serious crashes have caused backups that have presented concerns for emergency personnel and Lantzville politicians.

Last year, several accidents on the Nanoose highway caused delays, including a crash between two commercial trucks that gridlocked northbound traffic for about six hours, with vehicles lined up from Nanoose toward Nanaimo and along Lantzville Road.

A report from the District of Lantzville shows the growing number of highway closures has become a concern to council, which considered lobbying government for improvements until it learned a response plan was already in progress.

Tom Whipps, Lantzville fire chief, has been involved in the talks with the province and believes the September crash was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Vehicles tend to back down Superior Road in front of the fire station and along Lantzville Road, impairing access and volunteers’ ability to get to the station.

“If you were living in the village and had to get to a call, like a fire page, how would you get there? You can’t. You’d have to drive in coming lanes to respond,” he said.

Cpl. Mike Elston, Central Vancouver Island Traffic Services, points out that with high volume, a little slowdown can choke up the highway fast.

“You can’t just bring in a forklift and start pulling cement barricades out,” he said, adding the province is looking at a gating system that would open up a middle section of the highway and changing some curbs.

“We like their options,” he said. “It’s not going to make a huge difference to the way we respond. It will make a bigger difference to the travelling public. If we note [it] is going to be a long one, then we can put something in motion where we can start at least to get traffic moving.”

The Ministry of Transportation was unable to respond before press time.

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