The intersection of Fraser Highway and Mt. Lehman Road is so prone to accidents that it exceeds a provincial indicator of collision hotspots by more than five times, according to a consultant’s report obtained by The News.
In August, officials announced that Mt. Lehman Road was to be widened between Simpson Road and the airport at a cost of $22 million to provincial, federal and municipal governments. In advance of the project getting the go-ahead, a Surrey consulting firm prepared a business case for the provincial government.
That report, obtained by The News through a Freedom of Information request, suggests that while traffic on the Mt. Lehman corridor is not an immediate problem, two intersections on the road have collision rates vastly exceeding both the provincial average and the “critical collision rate” highway agencies use to identify areas susceptible to accidents.
A total of 345 accidents were reported at Fraser Highway and Mt. Lehman between 2009 and 2013, putting the intersection’s rate at more than five times the critical collision rate, and more than nine times the provincial average. The intersection of South Fraser Way and Mt. Lehman was also a problem, with 89 collisions over the same time span, putting its accident rate at more than four times the critical collision rate.
Mt. Lehman’s intersections with Simpson Road and Marshall Road were also well above the provincial average. There was some good news: at the most collision-prone intersections – the severity of accidents was less severe than average, meaning they resulted in fewer injuries than would be expected.
Still, 40 per cent of the accidents at Fraser Highway/Mt. Lehman and one-quarter of those at South Fraser/Mt. Lehman did injure at least one person.
The report notes that while Fraser Highway’s collisions are typical of a busy urban intersection, many accidents at South Fraser Way could be the result of the roundabout there. The report specifically cites a lack of pavement marking at the roundabout, along with high speeds, driver confusion and heavy vehicles, which may all play a role.
The report suggested a second westbound left-turn lane be added to the Fraser Highway intersection and that the roundabout at South Fraser Way be eliminated in favour of to a conventional T-intersection. However, according to the Ministry of Transportation, specific details of the project are still being worked out. A public information session will be held in advance of the project’s final design, which is expected by the summer of 2017.
The report focused on how much benefit would come from widening Mt. Lehman. It concluded that there is currently little congestion on the route, but that more traffic will increase trip times over the next 25 years. How much, though, is unclear. The report predicts that without widening, increasing congestion would add anywhere between one and eight minutes to the time it takes to drive between Simpson Road and the airport. The trip takes three minutes at the present time.
The cost benefit analysis suggested that travel time savings would result in a community-wide benefit of $25 million, with safety and vehicle operating savings offering another $3 million.