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Construction oversight forces Ucluelet road to single lane

Village Green Revitalization project ate too much into Fraser Lane for fish trucks navigate through.
Ucluelet’s Village Green upgrade is encroaching too far onto Fraser Lane to allow for two-way traffic, so the road will convert to one-way. (Andrew Bailey photo)

Ucluelet will convert Fraser Lane into a one-way road after a Village Green Revitalization project ate too much into the roadway for fish trucks to safely manoeuvre through.

During their April 30 regular meeting, the town’s municipal council received a presentation from the district’s director of engineering services James MacIntosh who suggested the situation was urgent.

He suggested Fraser Lane has suffered a longstanding turning problem, but that the Village Green construction pushed it into a significant safety hazard, especially for the fish trucks that use the road frequently.

“For a very long time, years, perhaps decades, vehicles when making that turn southbound have had to cross the centre line to safely make the turn,” MacIntosh said. “The turning radius problem has actually been exacerbated.”

He said that fish trucks now have to completely overtake the opposite lane to get through the narrow corner by the new Village Green playground because of a new retaining wall installed as part of the project.

“The risk here is apparent, evident and necessary to mitigate as soon as possible,” he said.

He said that “acknowledging the urgency of the problem” Herold Engineering, the design consultant for the village green project has committed to resolve the problem for the district on their dime for an estimated cost of $27,736.

He said Herold hired a traffic engineering consultant Watt Consulting and completed a transportation analysis and provided recommendations to mitigate the risk, noting the company paid for the consultant’s report and design work.

“They looked at removing the wall, widening Fraser Lane and then converting the road into a one-way,” he said, adding the recommendation was to go the one-way route and make the road southbound only.

He added that there would be opportunities to make aesthetic improvements including, angle parking, moving an accessible parking stall closer to the aquarium as well as painting in a pedestrian walking path and ways to slow traffic through the area to make it more pedestrian friendly.

The cost of the add-ons would come in around $13,478, which the district would be on the hook for.

“Those elements will make this a more usable space for the next 50 years to come,” MacIntosh said.

He added the project would likely only take several days to complete, but the community would be given “ample notice” before the work begins.

“The benefit is it that it reduces the risk, it improves the area, it can be done fairly quickly and it’s a small cost,” he said, adding the safety risk would be reduced “really down to zero, or as close as we can get.”

Mayor Marilyn McEwen suggested the company’s oversight is likely why it’s willing to “foot the lion’s share of the bill.”

“This is basically fixing a problem that Herold Engineering caused by not making the road wide enough?” she asked.

MacIntosh responded the problem has existed in the district for decades and that the village green project’s scope “wasn’t necessarily focused on Fraser Lane.”

“The project team was focused on expanding the green space, installing the playground and really got consumed by safety improvements at the intersection of Main, Fraser and Cedar,” he said. “This adjustment was, to be quite frank, missed by the project team. It was an oversight. Herold has acknowledged that oversight…and has shown up to try to resolve this situation.”

Ucluelet residents had raised the narrowed roadway as an issue back in May, 2023, but district CAO Duane Lawrence had assured at that time that it still met the necessary requirements for two-way traffic.

“The new corner does accommodate the fish plant trucks going around that corner,” Lawrence said during a May 9, 2023, regular council meeting. “Although it’s a lot narrower, it slows them down, which is a really good thing and they will have to yield to traffic coming down towards the water from Fraser Lane, which they had to do previously.”

Coun. Jennifer Hoar had raised concern during that meeting a year ago and said last week that she has had an issue with the turning radius space for fish trucks for “a very long time” and she was happy to see work being done to mitigate it.

She added though that a design image for the one-way conversion shows a ‘bump-out’ being added in front of Ukee Dogs.

“It seems to make the road very narrow for the trucks and I’m a little concerned that it’s too narrow at that point. I’m assuming they’ve done their math, but they’ve told me they’ve done their math in the past, so I am voicing that concern right now,” she said. “I understand the bump-out, you want to keep people from making the turn the wrong way onto Fraser Lane, but if you make it even harder for the trucks, then you’ll negate the benefit.”

MacIntosh said district staff are confident with the design work completed by Herold and Watt.

“We see the analysis that they’ve done for the turning radius and we’re confident that it will work this time,” he said.

Hoar countered that she spoke with truck drivers during the village green work.

“The last time, every truck driver that I spoke to said the turning radius information was inaccurate based on the trucks they drove through the intersection,” she said.

MacIntosh said a 75-foot fish truck was used to calculate the amount of space needed this time around, which is the largest confirmed vehicle used by the fish plant.

“Previously they weren’t using that large of a design vehicle and it sort of misreported what type of vehicle was needed to turn there. Now we’re using the largest vehicle with some conservative metrics as well,” he said.

McEwen noted the adage “once bitten twice shy.”

“We’ll cross our fingers,” she said.

Coun. Shawn Anderson said he went for a walk down to the area that day and asked people what they thought about the idea who weren’t necessarily stoked on the lane changing to just one way.

“Once you explain that the reasoning for it with the turning radius of the trucks and how hard it is to articulate, then they were generally open to it. Then the idea of having a slightly more pedestrian friendly situation down there, people were definitely much more amenable to it, so I think it makes sense.”

Coun. Mark Maftei asked why Herold Engineering wasn’t paying the whole bill.

“Why are we now paying to fix their oversight?” he asked.

McEwen responded that the company would be paying to fix everything structurally for the roadway, but the non-safety-related beautification add-ons would be on the district.

“We don’t have to, but it makes sense I think while doing that project to do some things that make it nicer for us too,” she said.

Maftei said he would prefer to split the two decisions apart, suggesting a separate conversation should be had around whether council wants to spend tax dollars on the add-ons.

“Lumping the two together is a little bit tricky for me,” he said. “It’s not a tremendous amount of money, but in principle I don’t know how that sits with me. It’s like, ‘Well, this is a safety improvement but we’re also going to spend your money to make it look pretty.’”

MacIntosh reiterated that Herold has committed to paying for everything needed to make the functional one-way conversion work.

“Then, to your point, they stop there,” he said.

Maftei said he would support the motion if it was specifically about converting Fraser Lane to a one-way road at Herold’s expense and then council could discuss potentially adding beautification in the area at a later date without locking in the roughly $12,000.

Council voted unanimously to authorize the conversion of Fraser Lane into a one-way road.

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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