No quick fix for Drinkwater Road

North Cowichan has heard Drinkwater Road residents' ongoing frustration with the volume and speed of traffic on the once-rural road.

North Cowichan has heard Drinkwater Road residents’ ongoing frustration with the volume and speed of traffic on the once-rural road.

Concerns about unauthorized commercial vehicles, parking near the trail head, excessive speed and the sheer increase in traffic volume had residents speaking out.

The municipality received a letter from Drinkwater Road residents on June 10.

“To date the road is being used by drivers heading west to go to Bings Creek Recycling Depot, leaving debris on the sides of the road; and drivers heading east to the Cowichan Commons Mall, as well as others just looking for a shortcut from highway to highway,” it reads. “The CVRD is now using this road as a shortcut route to Lake Cowichan as we can see no other reason for them to have a bus on this road.”

In a rural area dotted with farms, neighbours have had enough of the steady stream of vehicles that doesn’t seem to stop. According to the recently compiled 2014 top 30 busiest roads in North Cowichan traffic count, Drinkwater Road west of Lane Road is ranked 17th.

“We bring to your attention that this is a farming area. There are many large tractors, hay balers, manure spreaders, etc. that use this road on a regular basis. They are finding that simply trying to get out of a driveway to get onto the road is problematic with so much traffic.”

Despite having a “No Heavy Truck Route” designation, meaning commercial vehicles weighing more than 10,900 kg. (24,000 lbs.) can’t use them, “some ignore the limit and enforcement is limited,” admitted engineer John MacKay in his report.

Letters to haulers advising them on load limits are among the recommendations, as are a request for increased enforcement by RCMP and the removal of the transit route from the west end of Drinkwater Road.

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure said he spoke with transit officials and has learned about seven or eight regular users use the route — a significant number of users.

“One of the things they have been considering is if the bus did not continue to go through there, there could be a situation where there is not the proper location for a bus stop. That might be a challenge on Highway 18,” Lefebure said. “We don’t know yet if it could be replicated on Highway 18 or if there will be difficulty providing a stop. I think that information will come back to us in the form of a report from transit.”

While they are looking at the bus situation, the municipality isn’t ready to install speed bumps or other traffic calming measures just yet. Council also isn’t looking to expand the road or make major changes right now.

Taking direction from its engineering department, instead council has opted to erect more signs — no parking, speed limit signs etc. — in an attempt to educate drivers, before it considers more permanent slow-down measures. A short-term fix for what many believe to be a long-term problem.

“This feels like a band-aid on a bigger problem,” said Coun. Maeve Maguire. “But for closing the road, I can’t see how much of this will change the use or the speed of the road. I’m not sure this is going to do the job that these residents are hoping it will.”

Maguire agreed with Coun. Joyce Behnsen that perhaps its time to look at reducing the speed limit.

Formerly a little-used section of road, the construction of the CVRD Bings Creek Solid Waste Complex in 1998 and the Cowichan Commons Mall in 2009 have played a large role in the ever-increasing use of the east-west route.

North Cowichan director of engineering and operations David Conway said more information is forthcoming over the next few weeks.

“It’s a fairly big issue and I think it is worthy of fair study, not one that’s done off the corner of a desk,” Conway said.

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