Light rail not in new Maple Ridge transport plan

Open house takes place in May before council adopts long range plan

Canada Line SkyTrain connects Richmond to Vancouver.

Canada Line SkyTrain connects Richmond to Vancouver.

Maple Ridge is updating its long-term plan that spells out how people will drive, walk and ride for the next decade but one councillor says it’s already missing the mark by not considering rapid transit.

“The big picture is, light rail is a possibility,” Hogarth told council’s Monday workshop.

John Steiner, with Urban Systems, is updating Maple Ridge’s transportation plan, which will go to an open house next month. The plan sketches out possible goals for roads, sidewalks, cycling paths and transit for a decade.

But light rail transit isn’t addressed in the plan, Hogarth said, adding the district has to foster long-term growth that will have population densities high enough to support it.

For him, the old homes between Dewdney Trunk Road and Lougheed Highway, west of the downtown, offer the most potential. That area has larger lots that could easily be assembled for high density development, but notes the district is still allowing low-density housing such as duplexes to replace older homes.

Maple Ridge’s official community plan does require high population density along major transportation routes, public works general manager Frank Quinn told council.

“Those policies are definitely in place.”

TransLink’s own long-term plan also identifies a RapidBus route along Lougheed Highway to connect with the Evergreen Light Rail line in Coquitlam.

Five years ago, Maple Ridge also envisioned a light rail line along Lougheed Highway to the downtown.

Quinn  agreed with Hogarth’s questioning of the possible goals in the plan – extending 124th Avenue east to 256th Street to provide another route for gravel trucks from the pits at the north end of 256th Street. The plan says that road could be either two or four lanes.

Connecting the avenue would mean pushing a road through residential lots in the Agricultural Land Reserve, said Hogarth.

“You’re talking about adding 156 properties that front all that right of ways and [we’re] saying, ‘Guess what, folks, you’re going to have all that traffic … ’

“To me, it’s a $40-million faux pas.”

Instead, he wants Dewdney Trunk Road improved to better handle increased traffic, an idea which is partly supported by a goal calling for four-laning of Dewdney Trunk from 240th to 248th Street.

He also questioned the emphasis on roads going east-west and said instead that roads running north-south should be considered. He’s not sure if he accepted the fact that we have “this mass exodus every day,” and said that transportation efficiencies can be used to pay to get bus service in Silver Valley.

Coun. Mike Morden wanted a connection to 256th Street, and Quinn assured him, that is in the transportation plan.

Steiner said the demand for bus transit service in Maple Ridge is not keeping up with demand and that better connections to Vancouver are needed.

He also said the West Coast Express commuter rail service, which runs five times during each rush hour, is over crowded.

Quinn added the best option for dealing with east-west transportation is to lobby TransLink to improve West Coast Express service.

Coun. Cheryl Ashlie, though asked if there shouldn’t be a new way of financing transportation projects.

That component should be in the new plan, “because without that strategy it just sits there,” Quinn said.

Council heard that the greatest transportation pressure is on 128th Avenue, between 210th and 224th streets. Staff are negotiating with land owners to secure right of ways in order to widen the road to four lanes and will report to council in a few weeks.

The transportation plan will be unveiled at a public open house in May.

Steiner listed a few major projects that could be part of the new road plan:

• widening Haney Bypass and Lougheed Highway, between 272nd and 287th streets;

• widening Dewdney Trunk Road from 240th to 248th streets;

• extending 240th Street north to connect to Silver Valley;

• building an overpass to provide another road connection to Albion Industrial Area, south of the Lougheed Highway;

• widening 232nd Street to provide access to Silver Valley;

• building an east-west connection in Thornhill between 108th and 112th avenues.

• currently there are 30 kilometres of bike paths. The long-term goal is 115 km.

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