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Surrey council resurrects, fast-tracks 84th Avenue connection at Bear Creek Park

The city put the brakes on this project in 2007 because of community opposition

Surrey’s civic government is taking another crack at extending 84th Avenue between King George Boulevard and 140th Street at the southernmost end of Bear Creek Park, with the Safe Surrey Coalition majority championing the project on a five-to-four vote.

City Staff in July 2007 recommended that the city council of the day put the brakes on the proposal because of intense opposition to the plan at that time. Earlier that year, Surrey council had approved a $600,000 design study for the project, with the idea such an extension would alleviate some traffic pressure on the 88th and King George intersection.

Dianne Watts, who was mayor at the time, noted in 2007 the proposed extension would result in Bear Creek Park being boxed in by roads on all sides, making it more difficult for people to access the park. “That’s not where we want to go,” she said. But, Watts added, something must be done to relieve the traffic at 88th and the George. “It’s the highest accident intersection in the city and it must be dealt with,” she noted.

On Monday, Feb. 22, Surrey city council amended the city’s 10-year plan to fast-track building 84th Avenue along a hydro right-of-way at the south end of the Newton park, but not without debate.

A corporate report covering the city’s 10-year servicing plan was presented to council placing the resurrected 84th Avenue project, at a total cost of $7,338,000, in the long-term category of six to 10 years down the line.

But Councillor Doug Elford asked council to change the priority for the construction of the road to short-term, “which is a one to five year plan,” and “to have the project completed as soon as possible, in the time frame.”

This, he said, would align with “other improvements planned” along 84th Avenue between Scott Road and the George.

Councillor Mandeep Nagra then asked city staff if that’s the shortest time, “or can we even do one to three year time on this project?”

City manager Vince Lalonde told council if it wants the project done over the next two years, “we’ll put it in our priorities.”

Mayor Doug McCallum, speaking on behalf of the majority of council – which is his Safe Surrey Coalition – said “we need to have it done.

“And that means in the next two years.”

Councillor Jack Hundial told council he hopes there will be “robust” consultation with area residents and environmentalists, while Councillor Steven Pettigrew noted this is the third time this project has come before council.

“I have great concerns about this proposal moving forward,” Pettigrew said. “Especially moved to a short term.

“I would hope we would have a very deep consultation done with the environmental community and all the appropriate studies done before this moves forward in any way.”

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Councillor Allison Patton supports the project. “I’m aware of some real concerns for safety with some traffic crashes that are happening on 88th, King George and 88th, and I think that’s something with our Vision Zero plan we really have to keep top of mind.”

“I’m supportive of us moving quickly on this,” she said. “As well as from an environmental position there’s a lot of greenhouse gas emissions produced through east to west so if we can work on improving that, that would be very helpful. As far as I understand, being on a hydro corridor, it’s not like through the middle of the park so that helps, that’s excellent.”

Councillor Laurie Guerra noted King George and 88th is Surrey’s worst intersection for crashes and the traffic capacity on 88th is “crazy.” She asked city staff to verify that the proposed alignment would not cut through the park and trees won’t be cut down.

She also asked how the project would knit with the Bear Creek Park Stadium project city hall is working on. Lalonde replied that “of course in due process there’s a lot of choices to be made, especially on the road alignment, the width, what it looks like. I think engineering will start, basically revisit some of the old plans and come up with an even better plan and then they’ll be presenting that to council. We don’t have drawings at this point to show.”

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Being at the south part of the park, Lalonde added, the 84th Avenue extension “would help, we believe, a lot in the access” to the future stadium. “A lot of this still has to be defined.”

As far as cutting trees, he told council, a majority if not all of the alignment would be along the Hydro corridor which doesn’t contain “significant” trees, “but I don’t think we could state there would be zero trees required. This will all be reported to council once we do the actual survey and we do some designs.”

Councillor Brenda Locke said “rushing” the project would be “absolutely a problem for us.” She said she used to live in that area and saw the “push-back” from the community when this project was presented to it before.

“I can tell you people will be very concerned and they will rise up,” she said. “We’ve been down this road far too many times.”

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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