City staffers and council are discussing the prospect of converting one traffic lane on Lanfear Hill to exclusive pedestrian/biking use, making the hill either a one-way up or one-way down stretch of road for vehicles.
The idea has been gaining traction since the city closed Lanfear to pedestrians and cyclists last week after the narrow sidewalk portion of the road began sliding away.
That drew public comments wondering why the city was penalizing pedestrians and cyclists as alternate routes were either some distance away or not usable for everyone.
Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc picked up on that theme at the March 22 council meeting noting, specifically, that the pedestrian trail down what’s called Donald Hill and the trail down the Bench area joining up with the Howe Creek trail system are not viable alternatives.
She was assured by Kevin Sousa, city engineering manager, that the decision to close the Lanfear sidewalk was one made for safety reasons.
A technical report on the state of the sidewalk is expected this Friday on the overall prospects of the safe use of Lanfear Hill for pedestrians and, at the same time, he said discussions are underway among city staffers about the option of closing one traffic lane to vehicles.
“I don’t think that having one lane closed is not an option,” said Sousa. “I think that is a potential option we are discussing.”
Keeping pedestrians away from Lanfear Hill “doesn’t need to be a permanent solution,” he said.
That caused councillor Brian Downie to note that council has been struggling with the challenge of what to do with Lanfear Hill for years and that the route is a problem for both vehicles and pedestrians.
“I think this probably gives us the rationale for one-way,” he said.
A continued closure to pedestrians as well as cyclists is a “serious” situation given Lanfear’s use by students and others to the area, Downie continued.
City development services director David Block then noted that the sidewalk portion of Lanfear has been regarded as narrow even prior to the latest earth movements.
He said a decision to close one traffic lane to vehicles would require barriers or some other means of separating pedestrians and cyclists from vehicles.
“There is no easy solution to make this suitable for pedestrians,” said Block.
Councillor Evan Ramsay said traffic should either be one-way up or one-way down. Having both, depending upon the time of day, would lead to confusion and trouble, he said.
Lanfear Hill has for years been identified by the city as a problem for access to and from the Bench area with a suggested price tag, now several years old, of $10 million laid out for a complete reconstruction.
The city has set aside $150,000 this year for a more advanced technical report on what’s needed.
Two years ago it did apply for a federal/provincial grant for those two governments to provide $9 million with the city coming up with $1 million for a project. But that grant application was denied.
Leclerc did say she took photos of what she described as the “skinny little bit of sidewalk left” on Lanfear and has emailed them to Skeena — Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach and Skeena MLA Ellis Ross.