Work on improvements to a key intersection in Fort Nelson will begin today. More than $1.8 million has been allocated for new traffic lights and turning lanes on the Alaska Highway and Simpson Trail intersection.
Northern Rockies Regional Municipality Mayor Bill Streeper called this “a big time step” for his community.
It is the first part of a larger Alaska Highway Revitalization Project that Streeper said will improve traffic flow throughout the community.
“It’s going to improve the crossing of the highway,” he said. “This is something that council has been working on for quite a few years.”
The Ministry of Transportation announced the intersection improvement on June 2.
Currently, the intersection does not have traffic lights — only stop signs on the north and south sides of the intersection.
“The new traffic lights, turning lanes and traffic islands will increase safety and mobility for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles accessing both the new facilities to the north and the park to the south,” Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm said.
IDL Projects out of Prince George was hired to do the improvements, and the ministry expects the projects to be completed by September.
Half of the money for the intersection improvement will come from the Ministry, and the other half from the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality.
The Alaska Highway is a provincial highway. Normally, work on provincial highways is entirely paid for by the Ministry of Transportation.
However, this case is different. According to Streeper, turning lanes – which will be part of this work – are not considered part of the highway, but are instead considered a municipal road.
Rather than do the work that the municipality and the province has to do at different times, Streeper said that he and council wanted to do the work in one go, under one contractor.
The Simpson Trail intersection improvement is part of a larger project of work done along the Alaska Highway, called the Alaska Highway Revitalization Project.
The Revitalization Project will also smooth out some large ditches in town. Streeper said that in spots, the ditch is large enough so that if a person were to stand in it, a driver on the road would not be able to see their head. These ditches would be smoothed out into a swale.
“What it is actually instead of a ditch, you crown your road and the shoulder of the road is left high in the middle,” he said. “So then you take it slowly back up again, so you make a very open ‘v.’”
Other intersections set for improvement as part of the Revitalization Project include the points in town where the Alaska Highway meets 42nd Street and Nahanni Drive.
“People that go through the south end of town, north end of town are mixed with the traffic, meaning the big heavy traffic,” he said. “(The Revitalization Project is) going to speed that up, make it a lot safer for people, lot safer for pedestrians crossing the highway. It’s a win-win situation for Fort Nelson.”