By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

Upgrades for sewer and other infrastructure on 13th Avenue have plenty of Invermere residents talking this fall, in part because 13th Avenue is one of the district’s major east-west thoroughfares, and its closure during the upgrades has funnelled all traffic heading through the southwestern end of the community along 15th Avenue.

This has resulted in considerable extra traffic flow along 15th Avenue, most noticeably during morning and afternoon school bus hours at Eileen Madson Primary School (EMP).

Councillor Gerry Taft, who has a son at EMP, gave voice to the issue at the most recent Invermere council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14, asking if the project has fallen behind its scheduled timelines and if the 13th Avenue would actually be paved this year. 

Invermere chief administrative officer Andrew Young replied that the contractor doing the work has every obligation to finish this fall, and that he had spoken with the contractor the day prior (Monday, Sept. 13) to the meeting and that the contractor has secured asphalt for the paving.

“It’s turned out to be a complicated job,” said Young, summarizing what the contractor had told him. Young added that the district had received some negative comments from residents, but overall, these are comparatively few.

Taft said it was his understanding that initially 13th Avenue was supposed to be open to one-lane alternating traffic for the duration of the upgrades, and when that didn’t pan out, that 13th Avenue was supposed to be open for school traffic, but that hasn’t panned out either, leaving the bottleneck on 15th Avenue.

Young and Invermere mayor Al Miller noted that the district had undertaken work to smooth out and widen the shoulder along 15th Avenue and assigned Invermere’s bylaw officer to be at the school during morning and afternoon school bus hours to help with traffic management.

“We’ve tried to play a part in making things smoother,” Invermere mayor Al Miller told the Pioneer, speaking after the council meeting. “We’ve really tried to do our best. It is busy [on 15th]. For Invermere traffic standards, it is certainly very busy. We wanted to have some traffic continue to be able to go through on 13th Avenue, to avoid this kind of situation, but we were not able to get that. We moved as quickly as we could in getting a contractor for the upgrades, but by the time we did, unfortunately, it meant that this [the current arrangement] is the only way we could get the job done.”

Miller added that “we’re hoping to be paving in October, and the intent is that that will be wrapping up by the end of October.”

Bylaw officer Mark Topliff told the Pioneer that, in helping out with traffic management at the school, the issue is not the extra vehicles on 15th Avenue so much as it is how fast some of them are driving.

“It’s not the volume of traffic, but the speed. We seem to be needing to re-educate a lot of people on that,” said Topliff, pointing out that 15th Avenue has a posted speed limit of 30 kilometres an hour during school hours, as do other school zones in Invermere.

“There’s kids walking down the sidewalk, and walking all around the school and all around the street. These are little kids, primary school kids. They could easily see a puppy, see a friend, chase a ball, or otherwise be distracted and step out, or even run out, on the road. Drivers need to slow down and need to be safe. They need to be prepared to stop at moment’s notice to avoid an accident, if necessary,” said Topliff.