As construction of Surrey’s controversial 84 Avenue extension project nears an April completion date, local residents and environmentalists are re-airing their concerns about damage done by the road, its cost and usefulness.
The $15.5-million new drive is taking shape just south of the park, between King George Boulevard and 140 Street, where hydro towers and lines dominate the landscape, near a new bridge.
Those relatively low-hanging power lines will prevent large trucks from using a roadway seen by the City of Surrey as an important east-west connector for an estimated 15,000 vehicles per day.
BC Hydro says that for road-clearance reasons, it’ll cost an additional $7 million to raise their towers in the area, according to a July 2021 report to city council.
The utility continues to “work closely with the City of Surrey regarding modifications to our towers to allow for the road extension,” BC Hydro president Chris O’Riley says in a recent letter to Annie Kaps, a member of Friends of Bear Creek Park.
“We are still finalizing the design, and construction of those modifications is expected to be undertaken in 2024,” O’Riley notes in an emailed response to Kap’s questions about the project.
He added: “The City of Surrey requested that they be allowed to open the road extension prior to the raising of our towers, and we have agreed to that, conditional on the City putting in place measures to limit the size of vehicles that will use the road.”
Kaps and other Surrey residents have long voiced opposition to the avenue extension, plans for which were pitched and then abandoned several times over the years, until the green light was finally given by the Mayor Doug McCallum-led city council in 2021.
“We knew this new street would be a problem, and here we are,” Kaps said.
“What about how those power lines will droop in the summer, in hot weather?” she asked as fellow project opponents Evelyn Zaklan and Sebastian Sajda nodded.
“You can see how the roadway goes down,” Sajda said, pointing east, “and that’s part of their ploy to get lower than the hydro lines. And the curved route is due to the court case, because we stopped them from building on the north part of the park, so they have to get around some features. The court case worked to slow down this project and impact the road.”
Last May, the City of Surrey lost its bid in B.C. Supreme Court to have Forces of Nature Society pay for the city’s legal costs after a judge dismissed the environmental group’s petition for the court to prohibit further construction of the connector.
“This can’t be a huge road right now, because it’s not a straight shot,” Sajda added. “We expect this road to be expanded in the future. It’s always been their plan to have four lanes here. And the bridge is rated for four lanes, but with the windiness it’s going to be a boondoggle.”
The city acknowledges 84 Avenue is not a designated truck route and that transport trucks should not be driving on the road. The July 2021 report to council says “truck prohibited” and “low clearance/electrical hazard” road signage will be installed on the street, “along with other height detection measures.”
Scott Neuman, Surrey’s General Manager of Engineering, says the 84 Avenue extension has been designed “to meet engineering standards consistent with other roadways in the City that cross beneath BC Hydro transmission lines.
“The City of Surrey continues to work with BC Hydro to ensure 84 Avenue is safe for motor vehicles and public use, including emergency services, waste collection, transit, etc.,” Neuman wrote in an email to the Now-Leader.
The anticipated April opening “is later than anticipated due to unforeseen construction challenges and winter weather,” he added.
Meantime, project construction has impacted wildlife in the area, according to Kevin Purton, director of Surrey Environmental Partners, who decries “no worthwhile public consultation” before work began.
King Creek, Purton says, “was culverted with inadequately sized twin tubes that promptly plugged with coarse woody debris for weeks then backed up a large area of run off during atmospheric river events just six weeks after being installed, severely disrupting the salmon run.”
The new road, he charged in an email, “bisects one of the most valuable biodiversity hubs in the city as recognized by Surrey’s 2014 Biodiversity Conservation Strategy document, allowing wildlife movement through connected corridors into all directions of the city.
“Most cities would cherish this in the middle of a dense urban setting. With the asphalt laid and minimal construction traffic, we’ve already seen significant roadkill, an indication of the tsunami to come when opened” to traffic.
Longtime Newton resident Evelyn Zaklan said the road construction “has destroyed a perfect walk and also a perfect bicycle trail.
“We’ve tried to stop it for years, and it’s extremely sad just to see this park broken up like this, the natural part of it. It was so nice here before.”
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