Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne has no regrets about taking to his personal social media page to rant at the province, he said in an interview with the Spotlight.
“I did what I did and I stand behind it,” he said.
The province closed the Coquihalla Highway Sunday, Aug. 15, for 40 hours due to wildfire, effectively forcing traffic onto Highways 3 and 5A.
Those thoroughfares converge at an off- ramp that merges with Bridge Street, and has no stoplight.
Traffic began backing up in Princeton for kilometres and the situation only worsened the following day,
“We basically had the whole port of Vancouver coming through our one stop sign,” he said.
The mayor live streamed a video at the intersection and posted it to his personal facebook page.
“This is a joke. Where the hell is the province?” he stated. “I am absolutely disgusted that we still don’t have any support from the province on traffic control.”
Coyne had requested flaggers for driver and pedestrian safety, but said he was initially stonewalled by the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Princeton RCMP Sgt Rob Hughes also took a hand in working a fix. He reached out to RCMP Emergency Communications Centre for an authorization number to allow Princeton fire department members to conduct traffic control.
When the highway was closed the municipality wasn’t notified, Coyne added.
“I think we found out about it on Twitter.”
At the time, the DriveBC website was disabled.
The intersection has long been an issue for Princeton, said Coyne. “When they close highways in other areas and send (traffic) through our little town, on our little roads, they need to be there to help.”
Coyne said the municipality has been lobbying the province “for at least 20 years” for improvements to the intersection.
Flaggers were eventually sent to town, and Coyne as received an assurance that in future the local fire department can be authorized for traffic control.
Traffic controllers much be certified, he said. “You have to have qualified people in place on the job and you have to have the authority to do so.”
Coyne said he received many supportive messages from local residents who applauded his move.
“People from around the province didn’t see it the same way, and some people thought it was a rant against evacuees…I got a little bit of hate mail, but I think we are really fortunate no one got seriously hurt.”
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