City council debates intersection problems

1st Street and Victoria Avenue an accident waiting to happen, resident says

For Brian Kostiuk and other Cranbrook residents, the intersection on 1st Street South and Victoria Avenue is a recipe for an accident. Smaller vehicles have to slowly inch their way onto the busy road to get a sightline of oncoming cars, and because of the curve of the sidewalk and retaining wall, bicycles and skateboarders are difficult to see coming down the hill.

The issue came up at Monday night’s regular council meeting, after lobbying on the part of Brian Kostiuk.

Kostiuk  told the Townsman he first became concerned about the safety issues at the intersection when he moved into the neighbourhood entered by 1st Street several years ago.

The area in question is home to the Cranbrook Wellness Centre, as well as apartment blocks, houses and duplexes. 1st Avenue is the neighbourhood’s convenient entrance and exit on to Victoria Avenue. To enter the neighbourhood from the other side, one must wind one’s way through the hospital grounds or past the RDEK offices.

“I noticed right away there were safety concerns, because of the positioning of the wall,” Kostiuk said.

Kostiuk spoke with then-Mayor Scott Manjak about the issue, but nothing ever came of it.

He has since taken several city councillors, residents and even a representative of Worksafe BC on a tour of the intersection, and had a meeting with Mayor Wayne Stetski.

He has also circulated a petition amongst the residences and employees of the Wellness Centre, and brought in Engineer Elmer Higgins to create a mock-up of how the intersection could be fixed.

The trouble, Kostiuk says, is the retaining wall that runs from near the McPherson Funeral Home to the 1st Avenue intersection. Its height and positioning, the curve of Victoria Avenue and the presence of the Rotary Way path have led to Kostiuk and others having several close calls with oncoming bike and vehicular traffic.

“They can’t see you, and you can’t see them,” he said.

Kostiuk says the solution would be simple and fairly inexpensive. The plan would be to remove some of the gravel behind the retaining wall, then just drop the wall by a few rows of bricks.

Kostiuk said Higgins is working on an engineered plan to present to the city.

At Monday night’s city council meeting, Coun. Sharon Cross said she went and drove through the intersection at Kostiuk’s request.

“If there was a cyclist or boarder, I wouldn’t have been able to see them,” Cross said. “There are some concerns, and given the number of people that are expressing concerns, I think that something could be done.”

Mayor Wayne Stetski noted that the concerns had been passed over to the Cranbrook in Motion committee three times, and each time the committee had found no cause for safety concern.

Stetski said Kostiuk had outlined three things he is pursuing. One is a WCB inspection report, the second is a report from an engineer that says the wall is not preventing slides and third, he is asking for funding to lower the wall.

“I think the people of Cranbrook should keep in mind that when committees come back with recommendations like that, that’s a consensus of the committee,” said Coun. Gerry Warner, a member of the Cranbrook in Motion committee. “In the case of this intersection here at 1st and Victoria, I’m a member of the committee and I don’t share that consensus. But it’s majority rules.”

Coun. Denise Pallesen noted that she is also on the Cranbrook in Motion committee.

“It’s like a number of other intersections around the world where you have to stop at the stop sign and then you move forward when it is safe to do so,” she said. “If your line of vision is hampered in any way, you have to keep going out until you can see.”

Pallesen said the committee had discussions with ICBC, the RCMP and an engineer and they all feel the same way.

“It’s less than a stellar intersection but it’s not that bad,” she said.

Coun. Bob Whetham said the issue is caused by fast-moving skateboards and bicycles on the sidewalk.

“We have to remember that those facilities are really not designed as sporting facilities, they’re really for pedestrian movement,” Whetham said.

With files from Barry Coulter