Council paves way for traffic survey

Penticton council discusses ways to improve traffic once construction starts at Penticton Regional Hospital

Council is preparing for how to best deal with an impending cluster of traffic once construction work begins on the Penticton Regional Hospital renovation.

Council deliberated issuing a temporary parking permit for an empty lot across the road on Camrose Street that was donated to assist with the project. The plan allowed use for three years as a parking lot, provided that adequate lighting, signage and a crosswalks are installed.

Because the crosswalk would allow for pedestrians to stop traffic, and with roughly 1,000 workers needing to cross each day — concerns were raised over the impact the parking lot could have on traffic.

“A little more information needs to be brought to council’s attention,” Major Andrew Jakubeit said. “We’re really needing to understand how much traffic there is.”

He said it makes sense to use the property as temporary parking since the lot belongs to the hospital and is located across the road.

“Hospital staff and construction staff are often scheduled for shift work; there’s not a steady flume of people coming and going to really make a constant disruption to the flow of traffic.”

Council felt there wasn’t enough information put forward to make a decision and referred the matter back to staff.

Coun. Helena Konanz said three years (the expected duration of the project) is a long time to have 1,000 people crossing the road nearly every day, and suggested that an overpass or underpass be constructed.

Jakubeit doesn’t think that’s economically plausible, citing expenses would take away from the benefits that should go to the hospital.

The idea of foregoing the installation of a crosswalk was brought up, but it wasn’t considered an effective approach because pedestrians’ often jaywalk when there’s too much resistance.

Darryl Clark, a representative of the Penticton Industrial Association, said he understands the dire need for upgrades to the hospital, but pleaded with council to find a better solution. He said a main truck route runs between the hospital and proposed parking lot, and the increased likelihood for stoppage is “another little thing that chips away at our business.”

Planning manager Blake Laven said more parking will be badly needed — out of the 588 parking spaces currently at the hospital, more than 200 are slated for demolition. There’s still sufficient time for council to make a decision, and they unanimously voted to have staff conduct a traffic survey.

Interim CAO Mitch Moroziuk said the traffic study will cost about $1,500 to $2,000. The results will first be shared with the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation, and council is expected to revisit the decision at their Aug. 17 regular meeting.

Jakubeit expects the traffic survey to relieve much of the uncertainty surrounding the temporary parking lot.

“People are painting a picture that every two minutes the crosswalk will be used and traffic could be at some sort of standstill or snails pace,” he said. “We’re going to make sure that this hospital project continues with the least impact dollar wise, while keeping in mind pedestrian safety and impact to the business community at large.”