The owner of South Langley’s Festina Lente Estate Winery, Teresa Townsley, used to work as a trauma nurse.
Now managing the winery on 16 Avenue, Townsley said she has been a first responder to six vehicle crashes on her property within the past eight years — something she said she’s tired of doing.
“I don’t want to see that, I gave up that career for a reason.”
The most recent crash happened on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Townsley said an uninsured driver from the United States crashed through the winery’s fence, at 21113 16 Ave., at around 5:30 a.m.
“I was preparing for an event and had to be up early. I heard a tremendous crash followed by a flash of light, then suddenly it went dark. We knew it was another car accident because we’ve heard this sound five times before.
“We realized instantly there were live power lines on the ground, which is a tremendous hazard. We couldn’t even get out of our house safely.”
Townsley said witnesses believe the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. Fortunately, he walked away with just a bloody nose, while the power poles and Townsley’s fence took the brunt of the damage.
“The impact was so bad it took down the utility pole at street level and ripped the power lines off our own utility pole on the property. It was quite a while before Hydro could put them back up,” said Townsley.
With safety her top priority, Townsley wants the Township of Langley to make more improvements to the 16 Avenue corridor.
“It’s not so much the cost to us, it’s about the eventuality that something really tragic is going to happen. It’s a symptom that the road itself was never intended for its current use. Somewhere along the line there’s been somebody in the Department of Transportation that decided this road should be a thoroughfare. It does not work. We have to revisit the fact that it doesn’t work.”
In an ideal world, Townsley would like to see traffic dispersed back onto 0 Avenue.
“I’m not saying take all the traffic off 16, but I do believe we can mitigate some effects on the road by moving some trucks back to 0 Avenue.”
Townsley also would like to see speed humps and rumble strips installed along 16 Avenue.
Township manager of Transportation Engineering, Paul Cordeiro, said speed humps are an unlikely solution.
“Sixteenth Avenue is an arterial road. Like other municipalities, the Township doesn’t permit traffic calming on arterial roads. (It) is also part of the TransLink major road network (MRN), so it serves a regional function in terms of moving traffic. Any changes to any MRN road, the municipality has to get TransLink approval before they can do it.”
Cordeiro noted traffic safety along the corridor is always being improved and that more traffic lights are currently being installed.
He said the road has been the subject of several safety studies and the Township has implemented many improvements over the last 10-15 years.
“We’ve installed overhead flashing beacons at all the major intersections, we’ve installed left turn lanes, the cross streets have had oversized stop signs installed, there’s traffic signals at 216 and 248 Streets. This year, we’re installing traffic signals at 208, 232 and 240 Streets. RCMP pull-out bays are also under design.”
Townsley believes traffic lights aren’t the best solution, since she’s seen many vehicles run red lights.
“People are rushing, they’re impatient, there’s no speed enforcement. Speed humps could prevent people from going ridiculous speeds.”
In the meantime, Townsley said she is always prepared for another crash to happen.
She said each accident also affects the surrounding area.
After the crash on Sept. 22, Townsley said a neighbouring winery couldn’t open since point of sale transactions were’t able to go through.
Festina Lente Estate Winery has a generator, but Townsley said sales were still down because accessing the property was difficult while BC Hydro crews repaired the power lines.
“The reduction of customers left quite a financial impact. It’s nothing compared to the impact of this young man, and we feel terrible for what happened to him. But it happens on such a regular basis you can’t help saying, ‘Oh no, not again.’”
In addition to decreased sales, Townsley also had to pay approximately $1,200 to repair her fence.
“In this case, it’s not an insured driver, so ICBC can’t cover it,” said Townsley. “If we go through our house insurance, the prices go up, and if we go through our business insurance, the prices go up.”
After previous accidents, Townsley said she had issues getting ICBC to cover property damage caused by drivers. She recalled one accident where the driver crashed the car, and fled the scene. The car was on Townsley’s field for a number of days.
“The first thing ICBC said was, ‘How do you know it was a car that did the damage?’ There’s an unwillingness to accept the responsibility to the property when there’s a motor vehicle accident, and it puts a huge hardship on people that live along corridors.”
Townsley wants the Township to reconsider the road plans for 16 Avenue as soon as possible, but in the meantime, she hopes the most recent crash will be the last one.
“Are the original plans that were thought up 30 years ago still appropriate for today’s traffic and volume? In this case, I think the answer is no.”