Traffic in South Surrey. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Surrey council approves $360M Congestion Relief Strategy to speed up traffic

$111 million in new and fast-tracked transportation upgrades planned over five years to ‘improve overall mobility’ on Surrey streets

Tired of all the traffic on Surrey roads? You’re not alone.

But good news is on the horizon. Surrey’s road network will be getting bigger after city council voted to approve a five-year Congestion Relief Strategy (CRS) Monday.

The $360-million plan includes a variety of road network upgrades, to be completed by 2023, in an effort to “improve overall mobility” in the city. That figure includes $81 million earmarked for new projects, and $30 million toward speeding up the completion of other projects already on the books.

Proposed are 120 new lane kilometres in Surrey’s road network, nine kilometres of road improvements not already in the city’s 10-Year Servicing Plan (10-YSP), five kilometres of projects in the 10-year plan being fast-tracked (previously set to be completed in seven to 10 years), as well as “capacity” improvements to 13 intersections.

The CRS also includes five new or improved bridges or interchanges with Highway 99 in South Surrey (subject to a cost-sharing agreement with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure), and the installation of 200 Bluetooth detectors to “gather travel time data for better decision-making and enhanced real-time travel information for drivers.”

“One of the most frequent complaints that I get as a city councillor is congestion in South Surrey and other areas around our city,” said Councillor Vera LeFranc ahead of the Monday night vote.

“As a council we really have to give some thought and consideration to move up some of theses really significant projects, I think about 32nd and 24th (Avenues) and some of the congestion in South Surrey,” she added. “I think we need to talk about how to make this possible in the short term, rather than in the long-term plan. I’m pretty committed to that. I think that when you look at where people spend their days spending them in a car stuck in traffic is not really where they want to be.”

Councillor and mayoral candidate Tom Gill said the report “speaks to identifying funding solutions and how we can accelerate initiatives.”

See also: Surrey Board of Trade releases road survey

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So where are the upgrades happening?

New projects outlined in the CRS, to be completed by 2023, include widening 72nd Avenue to five lanes (from 144th to 152nd Streets); 80th Avenue to five lanes (from 172nd to 188th Streets); and 132nd Street to four lanes from 72nd to 96th Avenue.

Two other projects, that were identified in the city’s long-term plan, have been fast-tracked. They include widening 80th Avenue to five lanes from 122nd to 128th Streets; and 160th Street being widening from Fraser Highway to 96th Avenue.

The report to city council notes residents “often” request the completion of widening on key north-south and east-west corridors to help with congestion.

A slew of projects are proposed in the CRS, to that end, with some being fast-tracked from the 10-Year Service Plan.

They include Fraser Highway widening completion and transit lanes from Whalley Boulevard to 148th Street; 32nd Avenue widening and improvements from Croydon Drive to 188th Street; 64th Avenue widening completion from 176th Street to Fraser Highway and initiating works from 152nd Street to 164th Streets; fast-tracking 80th Avenue widening completion from 120th Street to King George Boulevard and initiating works for widening from 168th Street to 192nd Street; 152nd Street works to prepare for widening from 40th to 50th Avenue, and completing the widening of 160th Street from Fraser Highway to Highway 1.

Other improvements are proposed to enhance regional connections, which are cost-shared with external agencies such as TransLink and the Ministry of Transpiration and Infrastructure.

They include 32nd Avenue/Highway 99 Interchange improvements; a new 24th Avenue Highway 99 Interchange (northbound on and southbound off ramps); replacement and expansion of the King George Nicomekl Bridge; and Surrey connections to the Pattullo Bridge including the 128th Street Connector.

In addition, the city would invest in “high growth areas like City Centre, Newton, Grandview Heights and Clayton to support trips by all modes of transportation as we build our network.”

These projects include the extension of 192nd Street to Fraser Highway in Clayton, road improvements on 160th Street and a new 20th Avenue overpass in South Surrey.

See also: Car accidents on the rise in Surrey

See also: Drivers could pay $8 per day to help cut gridlock under new plan

To support Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT line, the CRS includes “a number of parallel improvements” such as 100th Avenue widening and improvements, and the new 105th Avenue connector (part of which will go through Hawthorne Park).

Other travel connections are planned, such as new sidewalks, a new pedestrian bridge east of 80th Avenue, as well as additional improvements on 140th Street and 108th Avenue.

The report to council notes residents continue to be concerned over vehicle capacity loss due to the SNG-lRT, particularly on 104th Avenue.

“Widening of 104th Avenue back to four-lanes along the entire SNG-LRT corridor is anticipated to occur through redevelopment, consistent with the City Centre and Guildford Town Centre/104 Avenue Corridor land use plans,” the report notes. “To address the concerns raised, the Congestion Relief Strategy, 2019-2023 will investigate the technical and financial feasibility of widening 104th Avenue to four-lanes along the entire length of the SNG-LRT alignment with potential inclusion in the strategy.”

Councillor Gill said he hopes to see four lanes of traffic on 104th Avenue on “day one” of LRT opening on the corridor.

Initial suggestions from officials were that 70 per cent of the road would have four lanes once light rail began, but Gill said the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that he chairs has been “very supportive of looking at an opportunity where we can in fact have four lanes that are active on day one…. and at the same time make sure the north, south, east, west connections we’ve identified in this report are part of our mandate.”

The just-approved Congestion Relief Strategy also earmarks $44 million to upgrade sidewalks near schools and improving connections to transit, and commits to 14 kilometres of new cycling tracks and multi-use pathways.

Further, it includes increased funding for “Intelligent Transportation Systems,” multi-modal travel and road safety, and for the city’s Traffic Management Centre by expanding traffic data collection and analysis. It also commits to increasing the number of co-ordinated signal corridors and growing use of “adaptive traffic signal control.”

The city is also in the final stages of a proposed Vision Zero Safe Mobility Plan that will “set the framework for reducing the number of collisions in Surrey – particularly those resulting in fatalities and serious injuries.”

All told, the CRS costs $360 million, although according to a city report there is a shortfall of “approximately $85 to $100 million” in order to complete the projects laid out within in.

The main source of funding for major road projects comes from Development Cost Charges, the city report notes. In the last four years, the city says it has invested more than $100 million of DCCs to improve corridors such as King George Boulevard in South Surrey and 82nd Avenue in Clayton.

“With recently approved increases to DCC’s, the 10-YSP now identifies almost $48 million annually for transportation improvements specifically targeted to congestion relief projects, including new arterial roads, arterial road widening, strategic property acquisition, intersection improvements, bridges, overpasses, collector road improvements, traffic signals and roundabouts,” the report to council notes. “Although this is a considerable annual investment, it is still not fully meeting the demands and expectations from residents to improve mobility options, relieve congestion within the City of Surrey or accommodate continued development in their growing neighbourhoods.”

City staff will now work on “refining” the estimates of the Congestion Relief Strategy, as well as identifying funding sources, and report back to council during the 2019 budget process, according to a city report.



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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