A Lake Country councillor says it’s time the district made a move towards turning Pelmewash Parkway into the recreational corridor it was initially envisioned as when the new Highway 97 opened up.
Owen Dickie will introduce a notice of motion at Tuesday night’s Lake Country council meeting asking for support for a motion to immediately close Pelmewash Parkway to commercial traffic once the district takes it over from the provincial government.
As well he says the district should set aside $35,000 in the 2016 budget that would be used to put in traffic-calming measures called speed tables immediately after they acquire the roadway to slow people down.
“This is more laying the ground work should something happen (in talks between Lake Country and the province to hand over control of the old Highway 97),” said Dickie. “There has been ongoing discussions. It just seems Pelmewash is being used more and more by commercial traffic trying to bypass the new highway.”
Dickie said many commercial trucks including gravel trucks, semis and cube vans are using Pelmewash Parkway to avoid the large climb on the new highway. But he says speeds are well over the posted limit of 50 kilometres per hour and the use by commercial trucks is against the vision the community has for Pelmewash Parkway.
“Through all of the community consultation everyone saw Pelmewash as being a recreational corridor,” said Dickie. “Well right now it’s basically a commercial corridor with numerous conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and commercial traffic on the road.”
The old Highway 97 along Wood Lake was renamed Pelmewash Parkway in 2013 when the new highway opened up. Community consultations took place at the time with a consultant pegging development of the parkway as costing somewhere between $12 and $13 million. But since that time the devolution of the highway to Lake Country control has been hung up in negotiations between Lake Country and the Ministry of Highways with several issues needing to be ironed out, including rock scaling work and various improvements to the highway.
Dickie said Lake Country councillors met with Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone as well as provincial highways staff at the recent UBCM meetings and Pelmewash Parkway was one of the topics. He said while it may seem like it’s taking a long time for the district to take over the highway, he credits Lake Country staff for their work on the file and says the district can’t afford to take over a highway that is in disrepair.
DIckie says he’s not surprised it has taken this long for the district to acquire control of the highway.
“I’m more surprised at the thought process the province seems to have in thinking that we would readily leap at accepting a liability,” said Dickie. “I think our staff is doing an incredible job of practicing due diligence and not accepting a liability that would end up costing us money.”
The notice of motion by Dickie means the issue should come up at the following Lake Country council meeting, which would be December 3.