Traffic-calming features are expected to be added to Extension Road as early as this fall.
Extension Road has seen numerous vehicle crashes in recent years, with speed a factor in the collisions, prompting numerous complaints from residents.
At a governance and priorities committee meeting Monday, July 17, Quynh Nguyen, the city’s acting transportation planning specialist, presented a report on data collection into traffic speeds, public consultation efforts, and a proposed traffic-calming plan developed for Extension Road from the city boundary near Cinnabar Drive to Cranberry Avenue.
Nguyen said the most recent traffic data was collected in April while schools were still in session. She said those findings were similar to data collection from three years ago.
“The speed limit is 50 kilometres per hour throughout Extension Road, except for the school zone area in front of Chase River Elementary; however, the 85-percentile speed was found to be 53km/h throughout Extension, which is substantially higher than the speed limit, and the maximum recorded speed was 130km/h on a Friday night.”
She also noted that the less traffic there is on the road, the faster people drive.
Feedback from public engagement sessions formed the basis for modifications to proposed traffic-calming designs. The resulting plan, Nguyen said, is designed to minimize inconvenience for motorists using Extension Road to access their neighbourhoods and maintain acceptable response-time targets for emergency vehicles.
Crosswalk improvements, speed readout boards, and intersection narrowing using flexible bollards are some of the planned measures, and a speed hump will be placed south of Richardson Road. If started this fall, the road modifications could be complete by spring 2024.
“We will also collect traffic speed and volume, post installation, to measure the effectiveness of the project,” Nguyen said.
Coun. Sheryl Armstrong asked if Nanaimo RCMP was consulted about the modifications, specifically the road narrowing at intersections. Armstrong, a former RCMP sergeant, asked if an RCMP collision re-constructionist could be consulted who has been at the scene of fatal collisions.
“I know [police] have concerns about narrowing of roads because they cause a lot more accidents,” Armstrong said. “They actually don’t reduce accidents, they actually increase it … If you look at where most of the fatals were, they’re where the road is narrower.”
Barbara Thomas, assistant manager of transportation, said the city works with the RCMP, but any concerns from the RCMP about the Extension Road designs weren’t brought to their attention.
“We’re happy to take that back and have a conversation,” Thomas said.
Armstrong said she doesn’t think the narrowing of Metral Drive has slowed traffic down on that street. She also expressed concern about commercial trucks navigating through concrete medians at crosswalks and wondered if the plan has been reviewed by commercial truckers.
Thomas said road design templates accommodate fire trucks and garbage trucks. The commercial trucking industry was not consulted, but the Chase River Community Association has members from the trucking industry and they support the work, Thomas said.
Coun. Erin Hemmens supported the traffic-calming proposal.
“Since I’ve been on council for five years we’ve been wrestling with this area and what to do and I think we just need to try something and we’ve shown that if something is not working we’re willing to modify it,” Hemmens said. “So my sense is that we just get going on this, we’ll see how it works and if we need to adapt, going forward, as necessary, we will.”
The motion to recommend implementing the Extension Road traffic-calming plan was carried with Armstrong opposed.
Thomas said, in an e-mail to the News Bulletin, the cost for the project will be determined and made publicly available when the work is tendered and the city has a successful bid.