‘Harris interchange would be a safety hazard’

Would turn Lougheed into a ‘freeway’

Mel Bennett is the co-owner of RV Service and Custom Manufacturing. He says his customers are constantly fighting traffic as they attempt to slow down

Mel Bennett is the co-owner of RV Service and Custom Manufacturing. He says his customers are constantly fighting traffic as they attempt to slow down

Residents and businesses along the north side of Lougheed Highway in Pitt Meadows are concerned a proposed interchange at Harris Road would make it even more unsafe to pull in and out of their driveways.

The speed limit along the highway is 80 km/h, and for many along the stretch, pulling in and out of their property means cutting off another motorist.

Mel Bennett is the co-owner of RV Service and Custom Manufacturing. He says his customers are constantly fighting traffic as they attempt to slow down, almost to a full stop, in the highway’s HOV lane to turn into his shop.

“They’re coming in here with 30-, 40-foot fifth wheel [trailers],” Bennett said. “It’s not safe, stopping in the middle of highway like that.”

Should a proposed interchange at Harris Road and Lougheed be built, he believes the problem would worsen, thanks to the constant flow of traffic.

The interchange would eliminate all traffic stops for westbound traffic on the highway between Park Road and Old Dewdney Trunk Road, effectively turning that stretch of Lougheed into a freeway.

Bennett said he has received two tickets from police for driving in the HOV alone, as he attempted to turn right from the HOV lane into his business.

“How do they expect me to turn into my own business?” Bennett said. “I’m not going to cut across two lanes of traffic.”

There is no exit lane or frontage road for the properties, and the shoulder is too narrow to drive along.

“If they could build [a wider shoulder], that would be great. But I don’t know where’d you’d put it,” said Bennett.

Dennis Turkington has lived on Lougheed highway since 1945 and says the new interchange would make life even more dangerous for those living along the highway.

“The traffic lights at Harris Road afford a break in traffic, allowing them to get out of their driveways,” Turkington stated in letter to Pitt Meadows council. “An interchange or connector without traffic lights … would make it impossible to safely get out on to the highway.”

In March 2010, an 80-year-old Pitt Meadows resident pulled his small pickup truck out of his property on to Lougheed Highway and was struck by a speeding motorcycle driven by a 36-year-old man from North Vancouver. Both men died in the crash.

Turkington said many years ago the stretch of road was known as “Death Mile” and that he doesn’t want to see that moniker return.

The proposed interchange is expected to cost more than $20 million. No start date has been set for construction, as funding has yet to be secured.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean said, while he understands Turkington’s concerns, the interchange, along with the North Lougheed Connector, will help ease traffic along Old Dewdney Trunk Road, where residents and farmers have similar difficulties pulling out on to the road safely.

By easing the flow of traffic down Lougheed, and eliminating the bottleneck between Harris Road and 203rd Street, there will be less incentive for rat-runners to take Old Dewdney Trunk Road.

“The whole reason for the interchange and the connector is so the people on Old Dewdney Trunk can safely get on the road,” MacLean said. “Some of the farmers have told us they get stuck there for hours.”