A group of local residents are calling for the widening of Fraser Highway, bringing a petition to council with more than 1,600 signatures asking the city to make the project a priority.
Donna Verrault, a resident of west Abbotsford, spoke to council last Monday about the concerns of the residents in the area about the ongoing traffic and safety issues on Fraser Highway from Mt. Lehman Road to Station Road.
Verrault said while the route has always connected Abbotsford to communities in the west, it was never designed “to handle the thousands of vehicles that now travel along it daily.”
She said her family has lived and worked on Fraser Highway since 1972 and has seen the community grow and change with residential developments, new businesses, seven gas stations, a large greenhouse, truck parking and more.
“Surprisingly though, with all of these changes, there have been no major improvements made to Fraser Highway since its present day inception in the early 1960s.”
She said it’s a main route for anyone who wants to avoid Highway 1. Though lights has been installed, “all that resulted was an increase in traffic accidents.”
Two accidents in the last month completely closed the highway – a common occurrence – said Verrault. She added if there is an issue on Highway 1, people take Fraser Highway instead, turning it into a “parking lot.”
Even with new sites approved for developments but not yet built, there are no plans for widening the road, she said.
While Langley and Surrey are facing similar issues with Fraser Highway, they have widened many sections and have plans to widen more, said Verrault.
“Why isn’t the City of Abbotsford planning on the same type of improvements? Why isn’t Abbotsford making Fraser Highway a priority to be widened?”
Jim Gordon, the city’s general manager of engineering, explained that Fraser Highway used to be a provincial highway, but about 15 years ago was turned over to the city.
Coun. Henry Braun said that over the past three years, he has voted against developments in that area due to the two-lane highway and “then I was branded as being anti-business.”
But he said he believes that Fraser Highway should have been widened “yesterday” and be a top priority.
Gordon said the city owns most of the right-of-way to widen the road, and believes the cost to expand it to four lanes would be between $30 million and $40 million. He said the city would want to ask the province for financial assistance.
Mayor Bruce Banman said that it is an issue he has brought to the provincial and federal governments, as the cost is “rather staggering.
“It is a priority. The question then becomes, ‘How do we go about paying for that in a prudent way?’ “