District of Lantzville councillors are becoming concerned about speeders and accidents on the Island Highway and have turned to the province and RCMP for solutions.
On Monday, Lantzville councillors unanimously approved a series of measures that they hope will begin to address some safety and traffic issues along Highway 19.
First, councillors passed a motion to call on the Nanaimo RCMP to increase enforcement along Lantzville’s stretch of Highway 19. Councillors then passed a motion calling on the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to create a traffic management plan for the district when the highway is closed as well as carry out a review of the highway to address safety concerns.
Approximately 8.5 kilometres of Highway 19 run through the District of Lantzville and Nanoose First Nation. There are four intersections with traffic lights along that stretch, with the major intersections being Superior Road and Ware Road. Traffic lights were installed earlier this year at Lantzville Road near the newly built Shell station.
The motions were brought forward by Coun. Karen Proctor, who said residents have expressed serious concerns about safety along the Lantzville stretch of Highway 19. She said people are driving faster.
“When I talk to my neighbours, they are all frightened when they cross Ware Road or Superior Road,” Proctor said. “They stop and they look both ways after the light turns red. Everybody does. Everyone expects that and nobody ever honks at you because there are people racing on that highway.”
There have been a number of serious accidents along Lantzville’s stretch of Highway 19.
In August, the highway was shut down for several hours after a semi truck crashed at the Ware Road intersection, and in March a woman was airlifted to a Victoria hospital with life-threatening injuries following a rollover at the Superior Road intersection.
Proctor said increased police enforcement along Highway 19 could help the situation.
“My thoughts are that if they were a little bit more visible, that might lessen the problem,” she said.
Proctor said a traffic management plan is needed because following the August accident, the situation in Lantzville was “mayhem.” She said there were semi trucks turning the wrong way on Superior Road because there was no one directing traffic.
“We need a plan that can be put in place that routes people around Lantzville – since the highway is the only road – in a safe manner, that can be implemented quickly,” she said, adding, “I think it is the department of transportation’s responsibility to come up with that plan.”
Barriers along a section of Highway 19 near Nanoose can be removed in the event of a serious accident that shuts down the highway, but the decision to move those barriers falls with the province according to Lantzville Fire Rescue chief Neil Rukus, who told councillors the province only considers that option if the highway is going to be blocked for more than four hours.
Coun. Will Geselbracht said he was supportive of Proctor’s motions. He said “people are going to get killed” because of speed along the highway.
“After the last council meeting, I left here, I think it was 8:30. I stopped at the light and the light turned green for me and I looked to my right and I saw a truck, 100 to 150 metres away, it didn’t even slow down, it went through the red light,” he said.
Coun. Ian Savage said he supported the motions. He said the highway has been a problem for “many, many” years, adding that the majority of accidents seem to occur between Nanoose and Lantzville, where there are a number of traffic lights.
Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain was also supportive of Proctor’s motions. He said it is important for the district to get information from the RCMP on what can be done to help address the situation along the highway.
Speaking to the News Bulletin, Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP media spokesperson, called the Lantzville portion of Highway 19 a “notorious” stretch of highway that officers continue to target.
“Cars have sometimes exceeded 150 km/h. We have done targeted enforcement where excessive speeders have been removed, cars have been towed and prohibitions have been issued,” he said. “So, we will certainly continue with that.”
O’Brien also said there will be increased discussion between the Nanaimo RCMP senior management and district staff about enforcement for the highway.
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