Don’t expect improvements to Lougheed Highway any time soon, despite pleas from the mayor and RCMP for safety enhancements.
But at least the first step has taken place on the long-awaited widening of the highway between Maple Ridge and Mission.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has started a “conceptual planning study and business case” for widening Lougheed Hwy., between 266th and 287th streets, as well as from Silverdale to Nelson Street in Mission.
The study is a high-level planning exercise, the first step in planning a project, and began last year, said Ashok Bhatti, with the ministry.
However, there are still no costs or timeline for when any work might begin.
“The ministry is committed to working with local communities along Hwy. 7 to meeting their future transportation needs and prioritizing future expansion of the Hwy. 7 corridor.”
The study includes widening and improving the Haney Bypass, from 222nd Street to Kanaka Way.
Four-laning Lougheed Hwy. has been a campaign promise for a decade, but a narrow stretch of two lanes at the east end of Maple Ridge still remains, while a longer stretch of two-lane road remains in Mission.
As for installing concrete dividers along the road, the ministry said that is part of its “long-term strategy” to four-lane the road.
Ridge Meadows RCMP, last week, said they’d ask the ministry for concrete barriers to be installed along the centre line of the road and that more cat-eye reflectors be installed in lane markings.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read called for the same, asking that barriers be installed between 240th and 272nd streets.
Many factors, such as road geometry, speed limits, traffic volumes and collision history are involved when considering whether to install barriers.
At least 2.6 metres of space is required to install a concrete barrier. And most roads don’t have that space. And usually, concrete barriers are not installed on two-lane highways.
The requests came in the wake of a three-vehicle collision on an open stretch of the highway in the 25500-block that claimed the life of Cory Wik, Feb. 5.
According to the ministry’s stats, traffic volume isn’t jumping dramatically, despite growing population and vehicle numbers, and the possibility the route is being used to evade the tolled Port Mann Bridge.
In 2010, a daily average of 38,266 vehicles crossed the Mission Bridge in both directions – compared to 38,787 vehicles in 2013.
The bridge connects Abbotsford to Lougheed Hwy.
Nor is Lougheed more dangerous than other highways.
Between 240th Street and Mission, the five-year collision rate was .23 collisions per million-vehicle kilometres.
“This rate is well below the provincial average,” for that type of road, the ministry said last week.
“The traffic volume starts dropping sharply as you keep moving east,” said Bhatti.
However, in the stretch between Pitt Meadows and Kanaka Way, the five-year collision rate is 1.03, slightly higher than the provincial average for that type of road.
Four-laning the remaining stretch of Lougheed in Maple Ridge, from 266th to 287th streets, long has been a Maple Ridge goal.
Last June, Transportation Todd Stone inspected the highway.
Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton said then that engineers have already surveyed the area, with the aim of widening to four lanes.
In 2007, former Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Randy Hawes said that work will at least start, if not be completed, on four-laning the remaining section of Lougheed Highway in east Maple Ridge by 2009.
In 2004, Maple Ridge and Mission councils held a joint meeting and called for the widening of the road.
“It was crowded 30 years ago when I was driving it,” Mission Mayor Abe Neufeld said then.
Dalton added that some parts of the existing four-laned parts of the highway aren’t wide enough to accommodate a divider because it would make the road shoulders too narrow.