Published on 2018/01/02
12 min read
Traffic Concerns and Road Safety
Introduction and Objective
The purpose of this sub-report is to present and emphasize the rationale, specific only to traffic related issues, for Surrey City Council to deny the re-zoning application and development proposal for the Rosemary Heights Retreat Centre. This sub-report forms part of a larger, comprehensive report that will provide overwhelming evidence that the re-zoning and proposed development will negatively impact and disrupt the existing Rosemary Heights community.
Traffic issues and concerns will be focussed on the following key areas
- Conflict with the NCP Design
- Traffic Safety in the Vicinity of the Proposed Development
- Current Congestion and Related Safety Issues
Note: One of the members of the committee responsible for writing this sub-report is a traffic safety authority and can speak to the road safety facts provided herewith.
Conflict with the NCP Design
The intention behind the careful and thoughtful planning of the road systems in the Neighbourhood Concept Plan was to avoid operational and safety problems. The proposed development plan is counter-productive to that effort and will serve only to create operational and safety problems. Collector and local roads in the neighbourhood will see heavy congestion that they were never designed to handle, which will spill out into already choked arterial roads. Further, with excessive traffic comes greater risk to public safety. Simply stated, the proposed development plan (and its repercussions) does not align with the Neighbourhood Concept Plan, and arguably worse, demonstrates a careless disregard for it.
Traffic Safety in the Vicinity of the Proposed Development
As stated, the proposed development will significantly increase vehicle traffic in the Rosemary Heights community, far outside the levels the existing infrastructure was built to support. This raises obvious safety concerns. Increased traffic volumes inherently increase risk to motor vehicle, cyclist and pedestrian safety. This is exacerbated when road systems have not been designed to handle the additional usage.
While the overall area will be more susceptible to traffic safety issues in general, three areas of extreme concern need to be highlighted here. The first two are the two access points to the proposed development site. One is situated on 152nd Street just north of the 36th Avenue intersection, and the other is situated on 154th Street, also north of 36 Avenue. The third area of concern is at the area of 152nd Street and 40th Avenue.
Access Point off 152nd Street
The proposed development plans indicate that southbound vehicles on 152nd would enter the proposed site by way of a left-hand turn approximately 50 meters north of the intersection at 36th Avenue. Northbound vehicles would enter the same access point by way of a right-hand turn. Vehicles would only be permitted to exit the site by a right-hand, northbound turn onto 152nd Street.
As the population in South Surrey has grown significantly in the past several years, 152nd Street has become a major arterial road that is the subject of heavy traffic volume and aggressive driving behaviour. The intersection at 36th Avenue is located at the crest of the hill which grades upward from approximately 40th Avenue.
It is not uncommon for vehicles to be travelling northbound on 152nd Street at speeds in excess of 80 km/hr through the intersection at 36th Avenue (posted speed limit is 50 km/hour). This speed estimation has been provided by a professional traffic authority and is based on his observations over the past six years.
Even in ideal conditions, turning vehicles both in and out of the current Retreat Centre are limited to the line of sight of any approaching northbound vehicle by the cresting hill. However, adding high speeds and inclement weather to the scenario creates already great potential for serious, if not fatal collisions. The addition of approximately 300 more families to the proposed development site would increase this scenario exponentially.
Though the developer may have conducted time-distance analysis studies in this area, the speed they used to calculate the resulting data is conceivably far less than actual speeds consistently witnessed through the intersection. Consequently, any resulting data from these studies should be categorized as unfair and misleading.
It should be noted that the City of Surrey Traffic Engineering Department confirmed that speed monitoring was last conducted at this intersection on January 19, 2014 at 11:00 a.m, for just one hour. The short one-hour duration of the study, conducted over four years ago, does not accurately reflect the day-to-day reality of the situation and cannot be relied upon for the purposes of this report.
Access Point off 154th Street and Proximity to Rosemary Heights Elementary School
The second access point for the proposed development at the Rosemary Heights Retreat Centre is located on 154th Street north of 36 Avenue and just west of Rosemary Heights Elementary School. This street is designated as a “through local” road.
According to the NCP, the roads in the community were designed with traffic calming and safety at front of mind. This holds particularly important for areas around the elementary school where large numbers of small children are present. However, residents have reported an already existing heavy traffic flow and increased levels of speed on 154th Street resulting from traffic routing through the area from 40th Avenue. The intersection at 154th Street and 36th Avenue, a block from which Rosemary Heights Elementary School is located, is also a point of serious concern. The intersection is very active with both parents from the school and commuters from Morgan Creek, Ironwood and Rosemary Heights. It is an uncontrolled intersection and sight lines are very poor, already hindering the safe movement of vehicles through the intersection. With an additional 500 vehicles expected to materialize in the community as a result of the proposed development, and in very close proximity to the elementary school, risk to both child and overall safety is anticipated to increase considerably. Parents in the area of 154, 154A, 155 and 156 Streets south of 37A Avenue, regularly send their children to cross 37A Avenue to play with friends living on the north side and beyond. There is considerable concern that the increased traffic volume will create a risk for children transiting the area.
This portion of 154th Street was not built to accommodate a sharp increase of vehicle traffic on what is essentially a “side street”. Justifiably, safety concerns are extremely elevated in this sensitive area.
U-Turns in the Area of 40th Avenue
The configuration of the intersection at 152nd Street and 40th Avenue restricts left-hand turns for both east and westbound traffic on 40th Avenue onto 152nd Street. In order to circumvent the design, vehicles make the forced right-hand turns, proceed a short distance where they then U-turn across the solid yellow line, in order to continue in the direction they wish to travel. The execution of these U-turns is contrary to the Motor Vehicle Act, illegal and unsafe. While some motorists do try to execute the U-turn safely, many do not. Typically, they apply their brakes suddenly while veering to the side of the road in order to create a larger turning radius, move back into the lane cutting off traffic approaching from behind, and U-turn into oncoming traffic, causing those vehicles to also brake abruptly. This is not a unique scenario; currently it occurs several times over the course of even just one hour and poses a serious safety concern.
As stated earlier, the development proposal calls for one of only two access points to be situated on 152nd Street just north of 36th Avenue. Vehicles exiting the development would only be permitted to make a northbound turn onto 152nd Avenue, southbound turns would be prohibited. Naturally, this design significantly increases the “necessity” for those wishing to travel southbound to make dangerous U-turns, and by extension, significantly increasing the safety risk.
Speed Bumps Along 36th Avenue
In addition to the three areas highlighted above, another point bears mentioning. Recently, the Rosemary Heights Elementary School community initiated a request for speed bump installation along 36th Avenue between 152nd and 154th Streets. As part of the City’s traffic calming evaluation process, the 85th percentile speed on 36 Avenue (measured in January 2016) was recorded at 64 km/hr. In recognizing the already aggressive and dangerous driving habits in the area, the City of Surrey approved that request in order to mitigate safety concerns. With that acknowledgement on record, any action taken to approve the re-zoning (which would lead to the introduction of approximately 500 additional vehicles directly to the area) would be counter-active to the City’s commendable efforts to make 36th Avenue safer.
Current Congestion and Related Safety Issues
Of significant importance is the fact that the surrounding region has been inundated with development in recent years and the traffic volume resulting from the rapid growth, without the infrastructure to support it, has already reached the point of over-saturation. Additional development projects are already underway which will only add to the gridlock. Harvard Gardens at 32nd Avenue and 152nd Street, Old School at 152nd and 28th Avenue and the business park on 152nd Street just south of 32nd Avenue alone will increase the number of vehicles in the area exponentially once they have reached completion. Additional impacts can be expected from the developments on the West side of 152nd Street near Save-On Foods, condos proposed for the King George corridor, and condos currently under construction near Panorama Village, to say nothing of the growth and traffic emanating from 32nd Avenue and Grandview Heights developments. Not only does this create considerable safety risks, it also increases commuter delays. At present, even simple grocery or sports-related trips have increased extraordinarily. For example, a trip to the South Surrey Athletic Park to take children to soccer now exceeds 15 minutes in the after-school hours, traffic is regularly backed up over the Nicomekl bridge on 152nd Street and extensively along 32nd Avenue, and residential owner frustration is rapidly mounting. A trip to Save-On Foods for a quick grocery-item has become a headache during the rush hour and even weekend traffic is congested. Croydon Drive, too, is regularly obstructed near 32nd Avenue. The area can simply not withstand any further increases in traffic volume resulting from development. Residents are asking simply for development to occur in conjunction with the required traffic infrastructure so that the livability of the region is not further degraded.
On any given day, during and even outside peak hours, the following congested traffic areas are at high risk for safety:
152nd Street and 32nd Avenue / Highway 99
The intersection of 152nd Street and 32nd Avenue sees enormous congestion. Westbound traffic is often backed up to 160th Avenue, and on even heavier days, particularly in inclement weather, it can stretch as far back as 176th Street. Eastbound traffic is regularly backed up through the interchange, through the exit ramp from Highway 99, and even spilling out onto the highway itself. This congestion creates scenarios for:
- excessive delays,
- blocked intersections, which not only impede regular traffic flow, but also emergency vehicle access,
- road rage,
Vehicle congestion on Highway 99 is of particular concern for southbound traffic, travelling at minimums of 100 km/hr, that happen upon sudden and unexpected stoppages in traffic as vehicles line up on the highway shoulder to enter the off-ramp. This is setting the stage for tragic consequences.
Multiple inquiries to the provincial government have confirmed that there is no funding for improvements / expansion to this section of Highway 99 that may have otherwise alleviated the risk. Without the infrastructure required to support the already over-burdened highway and intersection, and with traffic safety at risk, the introduction of another significant volume of traffic through development is fundamentally wrong.
32nd Avenue and Croydon Drive
The intersection at 32nd Avenue and Croydon Drive is another example of excessive traffic build up that generates serious traffic concerns. It is not uncommon to see traffic snaked back to 31st Avenue. The area south of 32nd Avenue is also the subject of extensive business and residential growth which contributes to this congestion, along with vehicles from residential areas north of 32nd continuously funnelling into the congestion area at 152nd and 32nd Avenue.
The majority of the congestion exists for northbound traffic, most of which is intending to make a westbound left-hand turn onto 32nd Avenue at the light. A left-hand turning lane, and an advance turning arrow are absent from this intersection, denoting the insufficient infrastructure in place here as well. As northbound vehicles attempt to make a westbound left-hand turn, impatient vehicles wanting to continue to move north through the intersection continuously pass on the right to avoid delays. Southbound vehicles attempting to make an eastbound left-hand turn are visually obstructed by the westbound left-turners and cannot see those passing on the right.
This further contributes to ‘traffic dodgers’ now bypassing this area through Rosemary Heights and Morgan Creek. Vehicles (including construction vehicles and double trailer dump trucks) re-route to access 152nd Street by detouring to 34th or 36th Avenues, where they add to already mounting congestion and frustration for local area residents. Of note, Blumsen Park, a children's play park, is situated along the bypass route along 34th Avenue.
Again, because this intersection was not designed to accommodate the current volume situation, risk to safety and traffic collisions are imminent.
Additionally, the congestion at the intersection poses risk to the Surrey Firehall #17 exit and response times, with traffic often backing up in front of the hall’s exit and response routes to local business and residential areas.
Developer’s Argument to Re-Route Commuters
On June 19, 2017, Gary Vlieg, representing Porte Developments, urged Surrey City Council to consider the installation of a traffic light at 40th Avenue and King George Highway to provide easier and safer access to Highway 99. However, this is not a viable solution for the congestion or safety issues in the area. 40th Avenue, between King George Highway and 152nd Street, which would take on all of the diverted traffic, is a narrow “farm road” with large ditches on both sides that can in no way safely accommodate this enormous influx of traffic. Vlieg also suggested the removal of the medians at 40th Avenue in order to support his plan. These medians are there because that portion of 40th Avenue is not designed to handle even medium volumes of traffic. Ironically, it was Vlieg who led the call for the medians while he was employed by the City of Surrey.
The recent car accident and drowning death of a Bellingham mother in the irrigation ditches along King George Blvd demonstrates the risk, folly and potential liability created by this proposal.
The Neighbourhood Concept Plan indicates that designated street parking in the Rosemary Heights community was specifically designed around safety and operational requirements. Street parking is therefore restricted on many streets to a single side and at present, has already reached maximum capacity. Searching for parking on the street, more times than not, is frustrating and futile. Most spaces are in fact, not utilized by residents of Rosemary Heights – they are taken by owners of adjacent townhome and condominium properties in Solay, Soreno and Edgewater (“Rosemary West”), where it is commonplace to see vehicle owners being ‘picked up’ by other vehicles to bring the driver back to their homes west of 152nd Street. This strains parking for residents on the east side of 152nd further, adding to an already short availability of parking options.
It would be reasonable to state that an influx of approximately 300 additional residences would only serve to worsen the current situation.
Traffic Volume Monitoring
Several ‘traffic monitoring’ studies have been conducted for the area, and were alluded to in discussions with the developer, however these were generated at questionable times, with photo-evidence by several residents showing the studies were conducted outside of the peak afternoon rush hour, on days that were raining, and therefore do not accurately reflect the actual volume data. The most recent traffic volume count reports, dated December 12, 2016, were obtained from the City of Surrey and they confirm that the latest count was captured at 4:45 p.m. on that day. Residents have observed traffic monitors leaving the area before 5:00p.m.
Notably, the community contains a disproportionate number of families who enroll their children in after-school activities in the late-afternoon, early-evening, and the traffic volume is observed to increase after 5:00 pm with parents taking their children to hockey, soccer, piano, the library for tutoring, and other similar activities. The RHCA is concerned that current traffic surveys are not accounting for this unique aspect of our community population, are underestimating the traffic counts and are based on outdated projections of the traffic impact of townhouse development (which is now taken up largely by young families).
Based on the convincing arguments provided above in terms of traffic concerns alone, it is the community’s sincere hope that Surrey City Council will see fit to deny the re-zoning application for the Rosemary Heights Retreat Centre. Notably, the traffic concerns are one piece of a very strong overall argument to dismiss the application, including significant and documented environmental concerns, disregard for the NCP and school overcrowding. As the City Council considers all the issues and the negative impacts this proposed development will have on the Rosemary Heights area, the community remains hopeful that Council will act appropriately, and within the wishes of its constituents in this area, and deny the application.