Once again, Langley Township council is trying to deal with the challenging traffic issues along 16 Avenue. And once again, it is doing too little, too late, and failing to consider the long term.
This isn’t new. On many occasions over the past 15 years, there has been much talk and precious little action on 16 Avenue traffic issues. The situation intensified when council decided about a decade ago to put speed bumps along 0 Avenue, mainly because of pressure from property owners there.
There was no doubt that more commuters from Abbotsford and points east were using 0 Avenue to get to South Surrey and Highway 99. Some were driving at speeds that were far in excess of the speed limit.
However, 0 Avenue did have some notable advantages as a commuter route. Most importantly, it has no four-way intersections, because it is located on the Canada-U.S. border. This dramatically reduces the chances of collisions, as long as drivers on connecting streets take care when pulling onto the road.
The 0 Avenue speed bumps slowed down the traffic, and this moved the majority of it to 16 Avenue, which was already a busy road. It is a major truck route for gravel trucks going to and from South Abbotsford, and more and more semi-truck units use it, as it is adjacent to the Campbell Heights business park in Surrey.
In addition, the Abbotsford Airport attracts more traffic each year and population growth in Abbotsford and Chilliwack has meant more people use it as a commuter route each year. A new overpass and freeway entrance point to Highway 99 in South Surrey has also boosted traffic on the road.
At around the same time as the 0 Avenue speed bumps were approved, Councillor Charlie Fox, who was then a council newbie, suggested a “green wave” of traffic lights along 16 Avenue through Langley. These would be set so they would mostly remain green for drivers doing the speed limit. As I recall, Fox also suggested the speed limit be raised to 70 km/h, as few drivers abide by the current 60 km/h rate. It is really too slow for road and traffic conditions, most of the time.
He got nowhere with his fellow councillors. The majority could not see any logic in adding a number of traffic lights along the road, despite the fact that there had been a number of serious crashes where main north-south roads cross 16 Avenue.
Eventually, a traffic light was installed at 216 Street, and more recently a four-way stop at 248 Street was replaced with a light. Now council has agreed to additional traffic lights at 208 Street, 232 Street, 240 Street and 272 Street, which is currently a four-way stop.
This much-delayed action comes as Abbotsford builds the King Road connector which will take 16 Avenue traffic all the way to Mount Lehman Road and Highway 1. This will add traffic to the road, and likely take some traffic off 8 Avenue east of 264 Street.
Reaction to the recent council decision has been interesting.
Some are suggesting more roundabouts are needed along the road, pointing to the success that the 232 Street/56 Avenue roundabout has had in reducing traffic lineups at that intersection.
Others are suggesting the road be widened to four lanes. There has also been more discussion about the challenge of driveways connecting directly to 16 Avenue — but that is a significant issue which is not easily solved.
Neither roundabouts nor four-laning are necessarily bad ideas.
However, any major changes need to be done in conjunction with a long-term plan for the road — one that needs to be done by Langley Township, Surrey, Abbotsford and TransLink (which provides some of the maintenance funding for the road, part of its major road network) all working together.
More than 25 years ago, there were studies suggesting that 16 Avenue be considered as a major arterial road and connector between Abbotsford and Surrey, and a direct link between Highway 1 and Highway 99.
Now that link has almost come to fruition, but the Langley Township attitude towards 16 Avenue remains a curious mixture of nostalgia and parsimony.
The Township has only added improvements in bits and pieces, as pressure is applied. These have been widely spaced out over the years.
It has not acted on the “green wave” idea.
It has stubbornly refused to take away the 0 Avenue speed bumps.
And a surprising number of Township councillors and South Langley residents still consider 16 Avenue a rural road.
It travels through a rural area, but that does not make it a rural road.
A road that links two major freeways, hosts plenty of commuter traffic, leads to an airport and is a major truck route is not a rural roads, by any reasonable definition.
Frank Bucholtz is a retired Langley Times editor and political blogger. His Frankly Speaking blog can be found at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca