Plans to improve traffic flow along Fraser Highway may also result in the speed limit being lowered along the heavily used stretch of road.
The city plans to start work this year on $7 million worth of improvements that will add left-turn lanes at several intersections and key choke points along the highway.
To allow centre left-turn lanes to be used safely, staff is recommending the speed limit along the road be lowered to 60 km/h. The limit is currently 80 km/h along a 4.2-kilometre stretch from just east of Lefeuvre Road to just west of Mt. Lehman Road.
A report to council suggested that the limit “is recommended for safe use of centre left-turn lanes and reduces concerns with respect to pedestrian and bicyclist safety.”
Assuming (the rare event) that the road is devoid of slow traffic or the need to stop, reducing the speed limit would increase driving times by two minutes, according to calculations by The News.
The News requested on Wednesday to speak to engineering officials about the recommendation, but no staff were made available. In an email, a spokesperson wrote: “the recommendation aligns with the Transportation Association of Canada’s maximum standard of 60km/hr for roadways with centre two-way left turn lanes.”
Further widening of the road will take place over the next decade.
Around three dozen people attended a public consultation on the upcoming changes, with many stating that four-laning the stretch of road should happen sooner than the mid-2020s, as planned.
Although a previous city traffic study said that centre turn lanes would reduce many of the backups that plague Fraser Highway, several people were skeptical the plan would alleviate congestion on the road, according to feedback included in a staff report. Multiple people believed the $7 million price tag for the first phase of work will be “wasted.”
“I really am appalled that you are even considering this as an option,” wrote one resident.
Several also wrote that the bike lanes slated for the stretch of road were a waste.
City staff wrote in a report that the highway is one of two designated cycling routes connecting Abbotsford and Langley and has been included in the long-term bicycle network plan.
Coun. Les Barkman said Monday that he wanted it on the record that he was concerned about the safety of an unprotected bike path on the road.
“Yesterday we had a fatality on that highway,” he said. “That’s a highway with high traffic, high volume of trucks.”
Mayor Henry Braun said that financial concerns limited how quickly the city could proceed with the entire $50 million cost of the full Fraser Highway project.
“If we just had a little more money, we could do more,” he said. Braun said that successful grant applications could speed up the project’s timeline.