The District of Lake Country will ask the Ministry of Transportation to change the speed limit as well as close the old Highway 97 to commercial through traffic immediately upon the opening of the new Highway 97 in Lake Country, expected sometime this summer.
The DLC will make the request to the ministry of transportation as negotiations continue this week between the two parties on the devolution of the old Highway 97 to district control and the eventual change-over to Pelmewash Parkway.
Lake Country council discussed the future of the old highway at its meeting this week, after coun. Owen Dickie brought forth a motion to have the speed limit immediately reduced to 50 km/h. But it was the second half of the motion that stirred debate as he also asked that commercial traffic be banned from using the roadway.
“If there is any vision of this becoming a pedestrian-friendly area we have to close it to through commercial traffic,” said Dickie. “With the amount of speed enforcement we have going on in the district no one is going to worry about going 50 km/h on that road.”
The motion brought up debate from the Lake Country councillors around the table as the timeline for the district to take over control of the highway gets closer.
Coun. Penny Gambell was the lone politician to vote against the motion, saying she had no problem with the speed limit being 50 km/h but said stopping commercial vehicles from using the road would be much like closing doors to potential business opportunities.
“If you are a community committed to business you are not going to put up stop signs along the way,” she said of the potential closure of the road to commercial vehicles that may need to deliver goods to local businesses. “It takes a lot to get businesses to locate in your community as we are seeing with the Town Centre. But it doesn’t take much to turn them away.”
The district has held community meetings surrounding the future use of Pelmewash Parkway but nothing has been decided about the seven kilometre stretch of road along Wood Lake.
Gambell said many folks at the community meetings spoke about economic opportunities with the parkway.
“We had a lot of discussion about economic development and it was deemed to be pretty important,” she said. “I’m wondering how you expect to service any economic activities around there if you prohibit commercial vehicles?”
Gambell couldn’t raised support at the council table and remained the lone vote against the motion and it passed. DLC chief administrative officer Alberto De Feo said talks are ongoing with the ministry on a number of issues with the change in highways and he will take the new motion to the negotiations when they continue.
“We are in the middle of negotiations with the ministry on road maintenance and how the road will be given over to us,” said De Feo. “There will be a progressive time-frame from when the new highway opens to when the Pelmewash Parkway will be under our control.”
The next step in the Pelmewash Parkway process is a report back to council from a consultant. A date for that report is currently unknown.