A fire truck has room to spare as it passes a Campbell River Fire Department SUV on the recenlly upgraded Old Island HIghway. The question of whether there was enough room in the upgraded portion of the highway has been debated for months now but city staff have only recently decided to prove it.

City puts ‘rubber on the road,’ tests highway

After months of squabbling, city staff proved there’s space for an emergency vehicle to pass on the upgraded Island Highway

After months of squabbling, city staff proved there’s space for an emergency vehicle to pass on the upgraded Island Highway.

Council plans to conduct a test on Saturday at a highway open house to put an end to the controversy surrounding the highway.

However, it seems city staff couldn’t wait until Saturday to find out as a picture was sent to the media Thursday demonstrating the very deed.

On Saturday, the city will celebrate the completion of Highway 19A with an event that includes We Wai Kum First Nation dancers, refreshments and speeches. It will also re-do the test, in front of the public.

Coun. Andy Adams wants the event to highlight, what he says is a positive for the community.

“It’s a significant project (with) economic infrastructure we’ll benefit from for years to come,” said Adams at Tuesday’s council meeting. “It’s a beautiful road and the sewer infrastructure underneath is first class.

“But there’s one thing that’s been nagging all along – that’s the issue of emergency vehicles and whether they can or can’t pass.”

After the road re-opened to traffic in November, the local firefighters union claimed the narrow highway makes it difficult or nearly impossible, to pass other vehicles when responding to an emergency.

“My position from day one is that it’s a problem,” Reid Wharton, president of the firefighters union, said last month.

He said there is not enough space for large fire trucks to navigate around idle traffic, particularly the section near Simms Road, with the rock boulevards and high curbs. City Manager Andy Laidlaw told council in April the road is fine after consulting with emergency responders, including Fire Chief Dean Spry.

Laidlaw said the highway is not designed for a code 3 response (lights and sirens), but does leave enough space and, if need be, emergency responders can mount the curbs to get around other traffic.

That did not impress Wharton.

“They’re telling us to take a $600,000 fire truck and hop a curb – wow,” said Wharton. “I’m pretty disappointed the city would tell us to do that.”

This week Adams said the city can conduct a test in front of the public to resolve the argument.

“I think we have an opportunity on Saturday to put an end to this once and for all,” said Adams. “I propose we put a city truck on the highway and have a fire truck pass. This is a good news story, staff have provided us with all the information, council endorsed it. I believe this is a good thing. Let’s put the rubber to the road.”

Acting Mayor Mary Storry was surprised by Adams’ proposal but did not oppose it.

“Wow, I didn’t see that one coming.”

The highway celebration takes place in and around the Simms Creek Pump Station Park from 11 a.m. – noon.