Closing the Westwood Drive access to 22nd Avenue has nothing to do with pedestrian safety.
It has everything to do with traffic flow.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is going to install left-turn signals for motorists accessing Highway 97 from 22nd Avenue. That has everything to do with pedestrian safety and is a long overdue improvement.
The intersection is easily one of the worst in the city, even moreso now that pedestrians coming from the College of New Caledonia can no longer J-walk across the highway and, thanks to that ugly fence, are directed to the intersection.
The intersection is tough enough for motorists to negotiate, for pedestrians it’s a nightmare.
The ministry believes that the new left-turn signals will create a traffic bottle-neck where Westwood Drive accesses 22nd Avenue and its solution is to close the access completely. Currently there is no left-turn signal so when the light turns green, everyone goes. With the left-turn signal in place, traffic turning left, according to the ministry, will back up more because it isn’t always moving on the green light.
Granted, the access from Westwood onto 22nd Avenue is a little weird and awkward as motorists often have to swing up 22nd and then to get into the line-up in the left turn lanes. Weird and awkward, yes, but unmanageable, no.
I just don’t buy it that the left-turn line-up will be longer when left-turn lights are installed.
Lights are all electronically controlled and can be timed. The vast majority of traffic coming down 22nd Avenue turns left onto Highway 97. That’s why there are two left turn lanes there and one through-lane.
I’m sure the ministry can add a few extra seconds to the left-turn signal to move traffic and avoid the 22nd Avenue bottleneck.
It’s kind of the lesser to two evils. Keeping Westwood Drive open isn’t great, but it’s better than closing it completely.
As Coun. Brian Skakun pointed out when the issue came before council, locals will eventually figure out the convoluted alternative of heading down Massey, going under the underpass and circling back onto Highway 97 to, ironically, head through the same intersection. However, for everyone else, the new route will be confusing and result in a lot of angry motorists who find out, too late, that they’ve headed north on a road that will turn them around and, if they’re not immediately aware and miss the turn-off into Pine Centre Mall, will have to go to the Highway 97/16 intersection before they are able to correct their path.
While the left-turn signals at the Highway 97/22nd Avenue serves pedestrians in the area, closing the Westwood Drive access to 22nd Avenue doesn’t serve the motorists.