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Kitimat moves forward with Hwy37 intersection upgrades amid safety concerns

Temporary upgrades to the Hwy 37 intersection are expected to be completed by the end of May. (District of Kitimat)

Construction of a pedestrian-friendly upgrade to a Highway 37 intersection is expected to be completed within weeks, following urgent calls for safer crossing options to the new McDonald’s restaurant.

During the April 8 council meeting, Kitimat’s director of engineering, Alex Ramos-Espinoza, provided an update on both temporary and potentially permanent improvements.

Work now underway will see a walkway running somewhat parallel to the highway toward McDonald’s through a residential development area.

“The intent is to provide an option for pedestrians to walk through the existing lots that are there. The current developer has an obligation to make sure there is a clear path between those lots,” Ramos-Espinoza said.

Once the walkway is complete by the end of the month, work is expected to begin on the other side of the highway with an extended gravel walkway from Widgeon Street along Nalabila Blvd to the highway intersection.

Painted zebra stripes and pedestrian crossing signs across Nalabila Blvd and Hwy 37 are already in place.

All of the work is expected to be complete by the end of May.

READ MORE: DOK, province aim to improve pedestrian safety near McDonald’s

The McDonald’s restaurant is located on the highway’s edge just north of Nalabila Boulevard, where there are no sidewalks and few pedestrian controls. Upon McDonald’s opening March 8, residents were alarmed by the overnight spike in the number and frequency of children crossing the highway and walking along the shoulder to reach the restaurant.

There is particular worry for students from nearby St. Anthony’s Elementary School who are most likely to frequent the restaurant after school and during lunch breaks.

These concerns quickly escalated to Victoria. The province quickly launched conversations with the district to put pedestrian controls in place. The current measures are temporary, pending the completion of an Upgrade Study initiated by the district. That work is considering either a fully signalized intersection, with an estimated cost of more than $2.5 million, or a costlier but safer roundabout with $4.5 million price tag.

With the highway jurisdiction ending at the Nalabila intersection, it’s expected the District of Kitimat will be responsible some of the cost. “The investments are significant, but it is a shared intersection so most likely the cost will be split 50-50, but that will require dialogue next year,” Ramos-Espinoza said.

The engineering department will present design proposals and a detailed cost estimate to council next year. “In the long term, we know we need to upgrade this intersection. MOTI has also indicated that we need to work on this as well,” Ramos-Espinoza added.

As temporary upgrades are underway to the highway crossing at Nalabila Blvd, a permanent roundabout, pictured, costing an estimated $4.5 million, is one option the district is considering to mitigate risks of increased pedestrian activity across Hwy 37. (District of Kitimat)

About the Author: Quinn Bender

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