A packed public gallery heard a consultant tell Parksville city council this week there’s no pressing or near-future need for a Jensen Avenue extension.
Michael Skene of Boulevard Transportation consultants provided council and about 50 people in the gallery some traffic statistics and future modelling for the Island Highway and adjoining roadways.
Skene’s report indicated there are currently, on average, 17,500 vehicles/day travelling the Island Highway in Parksville and 4,200/day on Jensen Avenue. His modelling suggested by 2030, without the construction of the Jensen extension, those numbers would jump to 20,600/day on the Island Highway and 5,700/day on Jensen.
With the construction of a Jensen extension from Corfield through to McVickers and connecting to Island Highway, Skene suggested those 2030 numbers would be 19,000/day on the Island Highway and 9,800 on Jensen.
For comparison purposes, some estimates suggest Douglas Street in Victoria sees an average of 35,000 vehicles/day.
“Future traffic capacity does not warrant the need for a Jensen Avenue connector,” said Skene.
The city’s director of engineering Vaughn Figueira told council the Jensen connector would likely cost the city more than $2 million, but when pressed he could not provide an accurate cost estimate of the entire job, which would have to include upgrades to adjoining roadways and intersections.
Members of the public who spoke at the meeting, some of them business owners, spoke about a desire to slow traffic on Island Highway, perhaps by reducing the amount of lanes or the speed limit. Skene, the consultant, said Island Highway will continue to need two lanes in each direction.
“If that’s your goal (to slow drivers on Island Highway), you don’t accomplish it by having the Jensen connector,” said Skene.
The consultant showed council and the public some suggestions for the Island Highway that included bikes lanes. He said they could be constructed without widening the highway because the current lanes are wider than they need to be and narrowing the lanes could also slow traffic.
“I think the narrowing of lanes is a first step,” said Mayor Marc Lefebvre, who has consistently expressed his frustration about speeding on the Island Highway.
Members of the public like Doug O’Brien pointed to the “pedestrian unfriendly” nature of the Island Highway.
Sandy Herle, a former mayor, a business owner and the president of the Parksville Downtown Business Association (PDBA), said council needs to look at a larger picture.
“It’s time to start looking at the bigger vision of what you want Parksville to be,” said Herle.
The PDBA, members of this council and others have long spoke about the need to make the Parskville downtown more pedestrian friendly and to create a better link from the downtown to the park and beach.
“We need to slow that traffic down on the highway and pedestrian-ize the downtown,” said business owner and PDBA member Michelle Jones.
City staff are expected to bring recommendations to council
March 21 or April 4 in relation to the future of the Jensen extension, which may need to be decided if planned work is to go ahead on improvements to Corfield Street.
One suggestion Monday night was to create a green walkway instead of a road linking Jensen to McVickers Street.