If you build it, they’ll be mad.
It all depends on which Surrey council member you ask.
Surrey council is making haste to punch an extension of 84th Avenue, from King George Boulevard to 140th Street, through a hydro right-of-way at the southern end of Bear Creek Park. But there’s a wide gulf on council about the pros and cons of this project, which had been abandoned by a former council in 2007.
The project received both bouquets and brickbats from supporters and opponents on council during debate Monday.
“There is big support – big support for this – in our community,” Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said. “Certainly I have received unbelievable support for this.”
McCallum said the project will help ease traffic problems at nearby 88th Avenue and King George Boulevard. “One person every four days gets either seriously injured or dies in accidents there. One every four days. That’s how serious this intersection is. Every two days there is a major accident. We have to do something with it.
“We are not going through Bear Creek Park,” he said. “It’s through the power lines, a little bit of green space there which is city land which is part of the road right-of-way.”
The city’s engineering department asked council on March 8 to award to Aplin and Martin Consultants Ltd. a $409,838.10 design contract for field investigations, preliminary design and public engagement, to set the expenditure authorization limit for the consultant design agreement at $451,000 and retain Aplin and Martin to provide engineering services for detailed design and tendering services for the project, for an “estimated” fee of $154,000.
At its Feb. 22 meeting, the Safe Surrey Coalition voted to fast-track the project, on a five-to-four vote. On March 8, council approved the engineering department’s recommendations along that same divide.
Councillor Brenda Locke noted the road will cost $12.25 million to build. “We didn’t talk about this at budget time,” she said. “We do know there are going to be trees coming down.
“I think it came as a shock to many, many people in Surrey,” she said, noting there are two red-coded streams in the area – Bear Creek and King Creek. “They absolutely feel blindsided,” she said of the residents.
Locke also asked if Surrey city staff has contacted their counterparts in Delta about it as the intention is ultimately to fill in the gaps along 84th all the way to Scott Road. Scott Neuman, Surrey’s general manager of engineering, told council “we have not called Delta yet” given this project is in the middle of Surrey. “We will maybe contact and consult Delta,” he said.
Neuman noted funding for the consultant design agreement has been approved in the 2021 transportation budget and the “missing segment” between 124th Street and 128th Street will be done through a “separate short-term” project in 2021-2023. Completion of these two “missing road segments,” Neuman noted, will provide a “significant multi-modal transportation corridor and connectivity” for Newton and Fleetwood.
In 2007 the council of the day shelved the 84th Avenue expansion project because of public opposition to it. But since then, Neuman noted in a corporate report to council, Surrey has grown by more than 100,000 residents “and congestion is becoming increasingly worse in the area of 88 Avenue and King George Boulevard, further necessitating the need for completing the remaining two segments of 84 Avenue.”
Neuman noted that 88th Avenue and King George is Surrey’s worst intersection “with respect to the number and severity” of traffic crashes and is also rated the third-worst intersection for collisions in the province.
As for public consultation, his report says, city staff will “seek input and engage the community” through online and in-person surveys, social media, local mailouts and “media promotions.”
“No other projects are getting deleted to fund this,” Neuman said. Councillor Linda Annis said public consultation should have been done before the project got this far. “The residents feel very blindsided by what’s happening here,” she said. “I’m also very concerned about the habitat, the spawning grounds, the creeks that are close by there.” Councillor Jack Hundial said he doesn’t recall ever being petitioned by the public “to even look at something like this.”
“For me it’s going to be some destruction in the area around the park, such as tree removal,” he said, adding it hasn’t yet been decided if the road will be two lanes or four. Councillor Doug Elford supports the connection, arguing that a majority of Surrey residents want east-west “connectivity” in their city while Councillor Mandeep Nagra said the project is a “very good” example of smart development. “This is much, much needed,” he said. “This project needs to go forward.”
Meantime, Councillor Allison Patton says she’s spoken to “hundreds” of people who “love this idea.”
“Remember, the past is over and we’re living for today,” she said. “This is a solution for the times.”
Councillor Laurie Guerra said she’s “really tired of misinformation being disseminated.”
“The road will not go through the Bear Creek Park reservation area,” she said.
Councillor Steven Pettigrew noted Bear Creek Park is considered to be the “jewel” of Surrey. “Right now, we’re having a debate and discussion on this but the public is not and that’s a real problem for me,” he said. “The road divides the park.
“I’m very, very disappointed about this and we shall see what happens,” he said.