There wasn’t a lot of excitement from the audience for councillor Bill Neufeld’s proposal to change the name of highway 19A during Parksville’s town hall meeting last week.
A staff report on the possibility wasn’t ready (council unanimously supported looking into it in September), but council was looking for more public input.
Neufeld’s motion suggests that since the construction of the Inland Highway, the main road through town has become more of a city boulevard than a highway.
He said it would help the city promote itself with a more evocative name suggesting combinations with “Boulevard” like Parksville, Marine, Pacific, or Nelson Park — the first postmaster whom the community is named after.
“I’m just trying to figure out what is the ultimate aim, and what will be the benefit from changing the name?” Frank Leach asked skeptically from the audience. “What are we achieving?”
“The purpose that I see to this, is that it is not a highway any longer, but people still speed along it as though it was a highway,” said Neufeld.
“I look at it as a safety factor. We are looking at what was once a provincial highway but is now an alternate route,” he continued. “What I’m trying to do, as a safety feature and functional landscaping feature, is to highlight that this is a municipal road.”
He spoke of recent beautification work with the addition of trees and safety measures and suggested a name change as an important step to making it a more user and pedestrian friendly city street, which he admitted could take decades.
“A name change will not slow people down,” Leach responded. “If people want to speed, they will speed, no matter what you do.”
Peter Simkin asked who was going to pay for it, adding that tax payers are being tapped from every direction
Other speakers were generally supportive, but skeptical that it would make much difference and were worried about the cost both to the city and to businesses and residents along the road.
While the discussion was meant to be focused on the name change, both the audience and councillors brought up wider issues about traffic calming and various ideas for making the highway less of a barrier between downtown and the waterfront.
Councillor Sue Powell pointed out that it was one of the first issues she faced when first elected seven years ago and there were references to an ill fated transportation plan review meeting held in the same church almost exactly three years earlier in which a number of larger changes were proposed.
Those proposals — which included narrowing the lanes, reducing to two lanes with wide sidewalks and bike lanes, or making it a one way road — were widely panned by the community as too expensive and dramatic and were quickly abandoned.