Marshall Road upgrades eyed after apartment approved

City staff counted 44 U-turns in one day on side street near proposed development

The city is going to look how to fix some of Marshall Road’s traffic problems, but those issues won’t hold up an apartment building proposed for the busy corridor in East Abbotsford.

A developer wants to build a 65-unit apartment building along Marshall and between Eleanor Avenue and Guilford Drive. But concerns about the building’s effect on traffic, along with existing problems along Marshall, led council to delay its decision earlier this month to hear more from staff.

Earlier this month, council heard that Marshall does have significant problems, and that dozens of people every day are making U-turns down side streets.

On a single Saturday in early March, 44 different drivers – four every hour – were recorded using Eleanor Avenue to switch directions. Another five used Guilford.

There is already a plan in place to extend a median that will deter the use of Eleanor for such reasons. But staff told council that extending that median – which hasn’t yet been built – past Guilford would be a bad idea because it would likely just push the U-turn problem further down the drive, while forcing law-abiding drivers who live in the neighbourhood to make a long trip to get to their homes.

RELATED: New apartment & townhouse projects may trigger South Fraser Way extension

RELATED: Marshall Road apartment building on hold while city tries to solve area’s traffic puzzle

Part of the issue, staff say, is the fact that Marshall’s intersection with Sumas Way, just to the west, is the busiest junction in the city. Many drivers who don’t want to wait to turn left instead travel through the intersection and perform U-turns.

City staff say that resolving the issue will require a complete look at the busy corridor. So they recommended, and council approved, money to conduct a review of the stretch of road and design improvements.

In the meantime, a speed reader board will be installed to encourage westbound drivers to slow down coming down a hill. The installation of the median at Eleanor had been scheduled for the spring, but staff say delays mean it will be built later this year.

One long-term fix for difficulties related to Eleanor in particular will be the extension of South Fraser Way to the southeast. It would then connect with Eleanor. Until that happens those living on Eleanor will have a circuitous route home if they must approach from the west.

Earlier this year, councillors expressed hope that the connection could be completed sooner rather than later. Staff reported earlier this week that while the city has received a development proposal that would spur the creation of that link, the proposal remains under review and it’s impossible to know whether, and when, that development will proceed.

Questions had also been asked about whether the area’s schools would have enough capacity for more students. One school at Eagle Mountain is already being built, and council was told that the school district has requested funding to expand five others in the area. Whether that happens, though, depends on the provincial government.

“Abbotsford’s been chronically underfunded for schools,” Coun. Ross Siemens said.

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