Lights, camera, safety.
Tofino’s municipal council is hoping a video of the road leading into town will prompt the provincial government to take action.
During July 19's regular meeting, council agreed to request a meeting with B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure at the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention in September to discuss highway safety between Maltby Road and the Pacific Rim National Park’s border.
To give their potential presentation to the ministry some punch, council also agreed to allocate up to $1,000 to produce a roughly three-minute video highlighting the road’s safety concerns.
The video idea was pitched by Coun. Cathy Thicke who said the district has spent at least four years lobbying the ministry to improve the highway without much luck.
“The issue here for me is safety,” Thicke said.
She suggested the video should be accompanied by data on the road’s usage, an assessment of the road’s width and shoulders and an identification of trouble spots.
“I’ve been watching what the Ministry of Transportation does online they post a lot of videos,” she said. “That seems to be a mode of communication that they understand.”
She said she had spoken to a local videographer who was excited about the project and quoted a price of $300-$500.
Coun. Ray Thorogood liked the idea but asked if the district should collect competing bids from other videographers before moving ahead with the one Thicke had spoken to.
District CAO Bob MacPherson said, under the district’s purchasing policy, the $1,000 project would not need to go through a public bidding process.
Coun. Al Anderson wasn’t sure a video was the most effective route to take and questioned whether the district should have to pay for the road assessment work.
“Is a video the best thing or would still-pictures or a powerpoint be enough,” he asked.
“I’m not sure if we should try to take that assessment on ourselves or we should just make the case that [the Ministry] should make that assessment.”
Thicke said a video recently commissioned by the Port Alberni Chamber of Commerce that highlighted traffic concerns around Cathedral Grove was effective.
“I thought that idea was very compelling,” she said. “It brings the issue very close to home.”
Coun. Greg Blanchette said more information was needed to warrant a video production.
“I agree with doing an assessment of that stretch of road. I’m not convinced that it is a dangerous stretch of road,” he said.
“As a cyclist or a pedestrian, that certainly feels like a very dangerous part of the road. As a driver, it feels like a part of the road where you have to pay attention but I don’t know if safety is necessarily an issue there.”
He doubted a video would be an effective communication tool.
“I’m not sure a video is even going to communicate any sense of safety or lack of safety and, if it did, you would have to spend quite a bit of time out there, I think, to catch the right two RV’s at the right curve in the road,” he said.
“It would just look like an interesting drive on a curvy, narrow road if you just did a quick video production.”
Coun. Dorothy Baert said a movie was worth a shot and the financial ask was reasonable.
“Sometimes we have to be willing to make mistakes,” she said.
She noted the federal government has committed to build a roughly $17 million trail through the Pacific Rim National Park and this could increase bicycle and pedestrian traffic coming into Tofino.
“The pathway improvements to the National Park, to me, raise a considerable concern that we have to ensure that we’ve got the best conditions of safety,” she said.
MacPherson noted UBCM meetings only give local governments 12 minutes to speak with each ministry and questioned how a video could be squeezed into that timeframe.
He added there’s little the provincial government can do about the road because of land ownership issues.
“Certainly ministry staff are aware of the some of the constraints of the geometry of this road,” he said.
“They don’t have a huge right-of-way to work with at that location.”
Baert responded the movie could be sent to the ministry before the meeting.
Mayor Josie Osborne supported the motion but questioned whether B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone would be willing to meet with Tofino.
“I like this idea because it’s different,” she said.
“I have no problems with making the attempt. I don’t know that the minister will agree to meet with us, he didn’t last year so it’s possible we’ll be showing the video to senior staff.”
She added any presentation council gives would need to include possible solutions.
“We’re not just going to complain,” she said.
“We want to demonstrate what the issues are with the roads. Using a video to do so in a way that they have with Cathedral Grove, and I’ve seen that video, I think will be very effective. But, we also want to offer solutions and ask for help...I don’t know if we’ll get the meeting but I’m willing to give it a shot.”
Council agreed to request the meeting and produce the video with Blanchette the only vote of opposition.