And to no one’s surprise, accidents happen frequently at the intersection of the old Island Highway, Boundary Avenue and Northfield Road, where the streets converge in abstract angles that only a trigonometry teacher could comprehend.
According to ICBC statistics, there were 58 crashes there last year, making it Nanaimo’s second-highest-frequency crash site and third-highest on the Island.
The municipality has been planning improvements to the intersection for a long time, but decided this month to hold off on the project and look into new sources of funding such as a rail crossing grant.
The safety of citizens should be any city’s first priority. But public safety is the responsibility of all levels of government, and the provincial Ministry of Transportation has some oversight of the old Island Highway, too. Then there are the Island Corridor Foundation’s train tracks to consider, in addition to a well-used public walkway and significant bicycle traffic.
Quickly, we see how an already-confusing intersection gets even more muddled, more so if we want to stand by the ideals of the city’s new Transportation Master Plan that trumpets walking, cycling and public transit.
This intersection is a bad one, and it needs a fix, absolutely, but a quick fix isn’t easy – it will take a major redesign to make any sense of those abstract angles. Extended left- and right-turn lanes on Northfield are needed, and possibly a left-turn-only signal on the highway. And we have to manage all this without jamming up traffic or putting buses behind schedule.
The fact that this project is being discussed indicates it’s on the city’s to-do list. We agree that the city should exhaust all outside funding opportunities, so long as this bad intersection, this public safety concern, stays at the top of that to-do list.