Motorists lumbering along Lougheed Highway may feel like their space is getting more crowded lately – and they’re right. Because the number of cars on the road in the last nine years has jumped by more than a quarter.
Between 2007 and 2016, the average annual daily traffic count on the highway at Maple Ridge’s eastern border has climbed from 21,041 to 27,000 – a 28-per-cent increase.
At the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows border, traffic has jumped from 67,207 vehicles to 80,000 – a 19-per-cent increase.
But specific traffic volumes don’t determine when a highway will be expanded or widened, says Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton.
Several factors come into play when determining whether to widen a highway – such as the local street network, business access, the amount of congestion and whether there’s a mix of low-speed and high-speed traffic.
And despite the growing numbers, there are no immediate plans, or money, to complete the four-laning of Lougheed Highway from Maple Ridge to Mission.
“It’s definitely in their sights and I’m hopeful we’ll get some segments paved. I want to see it all done. We’ll just keep pressing on,” Dalton said.
If widening the highway ever does start, it’s likely the section from Silverdale to Mission will be done first because it’s easier.
Widening the final section of two-lane highway in east Maple Ridge requires moving transmission towers and cutting into a cliff.
Each section will cost about $25 million, Dalton said.
Dalton added that most of the increase in traffic on the highway in the last nine years was because of steadily increasing population in both Maple Ridge and Mission.
He doubts motorists are taking the Lougheed Highway route through Maple Ridge to Coquitlam to avoid tolls on the Port Mann Bridge. “That would surprise me.”
But as population density increases, transportation will improve. “We don’t have a bus between Mission and Maple Ridge.”
In addition to growing traffic on the highway, numbers are also climbing on the Abbotsford-Mission Bridge.
Between 2006 and 2014, average daily volumes on the bridge jumped by less than two per cent.
But between 2014 and 2015, there’s been a five-per-cent increase, from a daily average of 39,119 vehicles to 41,177.
Maple Ridge Coun. Gordy Robson has said previously that Lougheed Highway has long been promised to be twinned.
And the increase in volume on the road is “just the beginning.”
New homes planned for a large development in west Mission will add another 12,000 residents to the area, Robson said.
But he added, there are no plans for improvement.
“The Minister of Transportation (and Infrastructure) told me personally there is no money in the highway budget for anything in Maple Ridge except the for the concrete dividers.”
Those dividers, between 240th and 272nd streets, will be installed this fall to prevent head-on collisions.
But engineering work is taking longer than expected because intersections and lanes have to be re-aligned, pushing the cost to $2 million to $3 million, said Dalton. Work will begin on the first phase, from 240th to the truck pullout is about 3.4 km, late this year. The second phase, continuing on to 272nd Street starts next spring.
Robson pointed out that Maple Ridge lost a four-lane highway that ran through downtown, when the ministry opened the Haney Bypass which varies from two, to three to four lanes. He wants council to require the ministry to upgrade Haney Bypass as condition of rezoning property in the area that the province is trying to sell for development.