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Speed not the only problem along 'Million-dollar alley'

Photo by Kyra Hoggan: The traffic coming towards the camera will, in seconds, be hidden from view by the sign in the foreground. This photo was taken from the approximate spot a driver would stop before turning left onto Highway 22 from Minto Road.

A new twist has arisen in the controversy regarding Castlegar's 'Million-dollar alley', as residents come forward with safety concerns beyond merely the issue of speed limits.

The stretch of Highway 22 (Columbia Avenue) in front of The Brick and Trowelex has long been a source of concern for the city, but myriad requests that the provincial Ministry of Transportation (MoT) reduce the speed limit have been denied.

Trowelex owner Nick Chernoff has a bird's eye view of the Hwy 22/Minto Road intersection from his business, and he says he has seen countless collisions over the years. He said speed's only part part of the problem – signage, sight lines and visibility are concerns as well.

Chernoff took staff from The Source to see one of the warning signs in question, a yellow-and-black diagonally-striped sign cautioning drivers using the right-hand turn lane off Hwy 22 and onto Minto Road, warning that there's a concrete island to the left of exiting vehicles.

Chernoff displayed how, when a vehicle is instead turning left onto the highway from Minto Road, the sign blocks the driver's view of vehicles heading southbond toward Trail – in the first lane turning drivers have to cross to get onto the highway.

Because of simple geographic coincidence, those oncoming vehicles are hidden from view for more than just a couple of seconds, but rather for the entirety of the time it takes them to round a bend in the highway.

In fact, this reporter conducted an informal experiment on the spot – and had to make several loops to time it just right, but found there was enough time to come to a complete stop and begin pulling forward again before a vehicle hidden by the sign would once again become visible to a driver making that turn (of course, the speed of oncoming traffic, the type and height of the vehicle making the turn, as well as the size of the oncoming vehicle– many factors could alter this outcome).

Chernoff suggested many collisions could thus probably be attributed to visibility issues rather than speed alone, especially during inclement weather like fog.
“I think they should look at this,” he said.

City director of transportation and public works Chris Barlow said he agrees there is a range of safety concerns to be addressed in dialogue with MoT.

“When we speak to them (MoT), we'll be looking at the signage and sight lines as welll as the speed issue, factoring in all the elements that may impact the safety of the area.”

The most recent collision on this length of highway happened last month, and saw severe damage to both vehicles, while both drivers were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

For more on this story, see this week's feature article: MoT responds to critique regarding "Million-dollar alley"