Council moves to drive trucks off Ellis

While the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has the final say, City Council is unanimous - heavy trucks must leave Kelowna's downtown core.

For years, Ellis Street has served as a truck route, feeding 'rigs' from Highway 97 to the city's north end industrial area.

If the city gets its way, those trucks will be funneled through Gordon Drive instead.

Traffic technician, Brian Oliveira, told council Monday about 400 trucks per day rumble down Ellis Street even after the city restricted heavy truck traffic to a 12 hour period (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) two years ago.

However, Oliveira also noted that trucks utilizing Gordon Drive, which is also a designated truck route, have dropped off since the city completed the Clement to Spall Road connection.

In order for the Gordon Drive to handle traffic currently utilizing Ellis, Oliveira says improvements would need to be made at the intersection of the highway and Gordon.

"The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is prepared to look at an advanced left turn for eastbound traffic turning north onto Gordon Drive," Oliveira told council.

"An analysis will be needed to determine if the left turn lane will need to be lengthened."

He says MoTI and city staff will evaluate possible improvements over the winter.

While they were unanimous in their support of the closure of Ellis Street, some Councillors did have concerns regarding the increased traffic being moved onto Gordon.

Councillor Mohini Singh asked if residents in the area had been consulted.

"In 2010 when we reduced the operating hours (on Ellis) we did have letters from residents on Gordon Drive and we did do traffic counts in 2010 that showed the volumes of truck traffic had gone down significantly from 2007," stated Oliveira.

"There was a lot of capacity that was there from previous years. Gordon Drive is a 24-hour truck route already."

Singh said she also heard from residents who were concerned about their children travelling to and from Bankhead Elementary School.

She asked if Spall Road could be utilized instead of Gordon.

Oliveira says Spall is also a 24-hour truck route, serving mainly trucks coming into town from north of the city.

Councillor Colin Basran also voiced concerns about a potential impediment to commuter traffic coming into the city from West Kelowna.

"My only concern after talking to a couple of truck drivers is, especially coming from West Kelowna, a lot of times they will move into the left turn lane on the bridge if not before they get down bridge hill," says Basran.

"A lot of times because of the lights through town that is their only opportunity to do so. There was concern that if they move into the left hand lane and take up the slow lane and stop at every light on their way through town it may have an affect on the commute at various times through the day."

Despite that concern, Basran moved the proposal forward because "it has a lot more positives than negatives."

It is expected nothing will happen until spring of 2013 at the earliest.

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