A Pitt Meadows councillor wants the city to consider an alternative to an overpass at Harris Road and Lougheed Highway to relieve traffic congestion.
Coun. Bruce Bell has suggested constructing an interchange, or fly-over, further west at Allen Way, and said the idea was discussed in earnest for the first time this past week during a meeting with the province at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in Whistler.
“We don’t know how seriously they are considering it,” said Bell, adding it’s a start.
“Allen Way is in the mix, but we don’t know what they will say.”
The Lougheed corridor, which is under provincial jurisdiction, accommodates the highest traffic volumes in Pitt Meadows, with up to 60,000 vehicles a day.
As growth in neighbouring municipalities continues, the number of vehicles traveling through Pitt Meadows will increase, according to the transportation master plan, released earlier this year.
Currently, the highway intersections at Harris and Kennedy roads are operating at or near failing conditions during peak hours, experiencing significant delays and bumper-to-bumper traffic during the morning and evening rush hours.
Key to relieving congestion along the highway is an interchange at Harris Rd., in addition to the North Lougheed Connector, states the report.
The intersection is also the worst in the city for accidents, logging 539 crashes from 2009 to 2013, according to ICBC statistics.
Bell believes that the city would be better served by looking at Allen Way than Harris Rd. The plan would entail extending Allen Way, past the Westfair Food yard towards McMyn Road and include an overpass above the railway tracks.
The city wouldn’t have to expropriate land that is already developed along Harris Rd., or move a high-pressure natural gas pipe line near McDonald’s, or relocate a heritage building.
“There’s a lot more in it for Pitt Meadows, a lot of spin-off opportunities” said Bell.
“It would open up that whole area for the airport, as well. It’s good for the fire department and emergency services as another way to get across. I hope it’s not a pipe dream for me. To me, it’s the best place for the project.”
The city, meanwhile, continues to push the province for a commitment on funding the Lougheed Hwy. improvements.
The total cost of building a connecting road and an overpass at Harris Road is pegged at $34 million, excluding land expropriation. Another report from the city suggests the figure would be closer to $52 million.
Pitt Meadows chief administrative officer Kim Grout said council met Tuesday with the Ministry of Transportation.
“Council was looking for an update on the ministry’s review of the Lougheed Hwy. corridor and some commitment to consult with the municipality before any final decisions are made on what future upgrades might look like in our area,” she added.
“There was an openness to dialogue, but there was no discussion about funding.”
The ministry is reviewing the corridor from Kennedy through to Maple Meadows Way, but the city has yet to see any reports.
As for Allen Way as an alternative, Grout said that discussion has just started with council.
“More clarity is needed on what the ministry is planning before the city would be in a position to initiate anything,” she said.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure stressed it recognizes the importance of Highway 7 through Pitt Meadows for the movement of both goods and people within the region.
“ The safe and efficient movement of the traveling public on our highway network is one of the ministry’s highest priorities,” the ministry said.
It noted that $200 million in upgrades along the Highway 7 corridor were completed by the ministry in 2011.
The Harris Rd. intersection was specifically addressed for congestion with the installation of three left-turn lanes.
The ministry continues to monitor the signal timing at the intersection “to ensure performance efficiency.”
A spokesperson for the province said the ministry continues to work in collaboration with local municipalities on identifying future improvement strategies for the Lougheed Hwy. corridor.
The ministry did not address any questions about Allen Way.