Safety on rural Mission roads is collapsing under the weight of increasing industrial and recreational traffic, according to local residents.
Representatives from the Steelhead Community Association gave a presentation to councillors earlier this month – the second delegation since August – pleading for a solution to what they call the “Wild West of Mission.”
“We’ve had neighbours hold hands with crash victims as they took their last breath,” said Candace Koch, chair of association. “The most gut wrenching feeling is hearing that air ambulance landing on Dewdney Trunk Road, not knowing if it’s a loved one, or if the person will survive.”
The increase of commercial dump-truck, tourist and recreational traffic along the road was described as “staggering” by the delegation. They said volunteers conducted a traffic count at Cannon Pit last February from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and recorded 472 commercial vehicles using the road, 88 per cent of which were dump trucks.
The summer’s traffic will dwarf these numbers, Koch said, when trucks carrying soil and asphalt are more frequent and tourist activity explodes.
She said trucks weighed down with equipment and carrying resource deposits from the four gravel pits and asphalt plant do not have proper flaggers, spill debris resulting in crashes and vehicle damage, hamper visibility with plumes of dust, and deteriorate the condition of the road.
While street sweepers are needed at times, Koch said they amount to a band-aid solution and drivers make dangerous maneuvers to make blind passes on the road’s many hills and twists.
“We feel as if we are living on an unmaintained logging road,” she said, adding road safety and maintenance is one of the most important services to provide for rural communities. “There seems to be no oversight.”
When the poor shape of the road combines with out-of-town visitors seeking out the many activities in the area, things can turn deadly, the presenters said. The numbers of the travellers is only increasing with COVID-19, and local residents report chronic parking issues.
Last August, members of the community came before council requesting a long-term plan be put into action. Jana Tennant, the second community representative who spoke at the meeting, said nothing has happened since. She said their worries are exacerbated by large developments slated to begin soon in the Steelhead and Stave Falls neighbourhoods.
Tennant said their association has been “bounced back and forth” between various provincial ministries and the municipality.
“We have to ask, do we count?” she said.
“Accountability for these matters are in the gray zone … We seem to fall between the cracks.”
She said the neighbourhood wants a seat at the table for the district’s transportation master plan, which is currently being formulated.
The representatives came with suggested review areas for the plan, including: Numerous locations for traffic counters; tracing landfill traffic routes based on receipt and weight; crash statistics with fatality numbers and emergency response time; a financial review of the road’s maintenance costs, and benefits of its industrial use; and consideration for safety features, road improvements and parking.
The representatives acknowledged the road’s importance for industry, but said it’s coming at the price of their safety.
“It’s real, and it’s urgent, and it’s a big mess,” Tennant said. “It bears the question of who will burden these costs?”
Council unanimously voted for staff to review of the presentation. Mike Younie, the district’s chief administration officer said he would be speaking with the director of engineering.