Motorists travelling from Kitimat to Terrace are advised to plan for delays of up to 15 minutes as work ramps up on the Hwy 16 roundabout ahead of temperatures dropping.
With completion of work scheduled before the onset of winter, crews have upped the pace, at times causing traffic back-ups of about a mile eastward on Hwy 16, delays which the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says are unavoidable and likely to happen periodically until the project is completed.
Crews are currently using hydraulic hammers to remove rocky areas around the edges of the roundabout, but blasting may be required. The project also requires extensive utility relocation and moving the weigh scales further east along Hwy16.
The weigh scales are being moved to a Thornhill property owned by the provincial government on the Thornhill Frontage road between Crescent Street and Kirkaldy Street, the second site chosen by the ministry.
The first location is part of a planned land transfer from the province to the Kitselas First Nation tied to an LNG benefits agreement signed between the two parties.
The need for a permanent solution to congestion at the intersection of highways 16 and 37 became more pressing with LNG Canada’s decision to go ahead with construction of its $40 billion natural gas liquefaction facility in Kitimat, coupled with rampant growth at the Port of Prince Rupert, dramatically increasing traffic volumes through Terrace.
Originally budgeted at $4 million, the project cost has since ballooned to $9.3 million.
A ministry spokesperson said the more than doubling of cost is because the first estimate was issued before public consultation made it clear the best of several options for intersection improvement was the more costly roundabout.
“It was important for the ministry to carry out broad consultation early in this project to ensure we were on the right path given how much this intersection affects all road users in the region,” said the spokesperson.
“Following public consultation the higher cost solution — a roundabout — was identified as the preferred option based on multiple factors including local support, improved vehicle and pedestrian safety and improved traffic flow.”
In October 2017 the ministry unveiled its plans for the roundabout at an open house in Thornhill, at which time the price tag was already quoted as $4 million.
The federal government is contributing $1.7 million to the cost with the province picking up the remaining $7.6 million.
Mild opposition to the roundabout has surfaced over concerns of drivers’ unfamiliarity with how roundabouts work, but the ministry cites international studies that show roundabouts increase traffic flow, while lowering both vehicle accident rates and severity.
– with files from Rod Link