Police closed Lougheed Highway Thursday to investigate pedestrian fatality in 21800-block of Lougheed Highway. (THE NEWS/files)

Ridge council concerned about pedestrian safety on Lougheed

Dark strip of Maple Ridge road 'a provincial project.'

The death of another pedestrian on Lougheed Highway is again raising questions about the stretch of road that leads to downtown Maple Ridge.

Tassis Vix, 32, died after being struck by a car late Thursday, April 12, in the 21800-block of Lougheed Highway. Tall trees in that section soak up ambient light and there’s a six-block gap between one set of traffic lights (216th Street) and the next (222nd Street).

Police have since recovered what they believe to be the vehicle involved, although no arrests have been made.

Coun. Gordy Robson says safety improvements to the road can be tied in with those the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is planning for the Haney Bypass intersection at 222nd St.

He says those planned improvements, a double-right-hand eastbound turn on to the bypass from Lougheed, are unsafe from the start.

Robson wants the ministry to redesign its plans, while the city is also writing the ministry about its concerns.

“I don’t know how many people have died ([on that stretch of highway] over the last couple of years,” Robson said.

At least five pedestrians have died on that part of Lougheed Highway since 2010. One man was killed in the 21700-block in 2015. Another man was killed in 2014 in the 20400-block, and in 2010, two pedestrians were killed in two separate incidents.

“That part of the highway is pitch black and with the way the sidewalk is shaped, the curb offers no protection … an absolutely tragic and preventable loss of life,” Mike Devereaux said online.

“So sad. Rarely see anyone obeying the posted speed of 60 km/h in this stretch, day or night. Unfortunately this will continue to happen unless there is stricter speed enforcement. Better lighting would help though, in this stretch and on Dewdney, especially when raining,” added Michael Gallagher.

Coun. Tyler Shymkiw shares Robson’s concerns and says the design for the corner has to be improved.

“The long-term quality of that road will depend on if we get the bypass changes right. That’s really critical.”

It’s always a challenge when there’s a diffusion of responsibility with both city and provincial governments involved, he pointed out.

“It’s not our road – but it is our community, so we need to do everything we can to continue to advocate for pedestrian safety on that corridor and be a good partner with the province on doing that,” Shymkiw said.

“We need to be doing everything we can to make that a safe corridor.”

While it’s a major road, there’s also a lot of pedestrian traffic on Lougheed, he added.

Shymkiw said the city has improved lighting and crossings on Dewdney Trunk Road, which is its responsibility, but it’s up to the province to decide on improvements for Lougheed Highway.

Coun. Bob Masse said that council discussed the improvements to the Haney Bypass intersection and highway safety two days before the fatal accident.

He said at the time that he was worried about pedestrians on the road.

“Just very sad to see that happen,” he said of Thursday’s fatality.

He supported councils’ decision to delay a condo application nearby until the ministry improves its plans.

Masse drove down the section of Lougheed Highway on Tuesday where Vix was hit and found there are few streetlights in the area.

And he doubted if a crosswalk could be put on a four-lane highway, adding it would be expensive to put in a pedestrian overpass.

“Council is concerned, but I don’t know what the solutions are, and before we really densify on the south side of the highway, I think we have to have some understanding of that.

“It is an issue.”

Part of the ministry’s plans for the Haney Bypass intersection include a bi-directional cycling path on the north side of Lougheed from 222nd to 220th streets. That will complement a similar path that’s already on Lougheed from Laity to 216th streets.

But such paths are inherently dangerous because motorists turning across those paths forget to check for cyclists approaching from both directions, said cycling advocate Jackie Chow, with HUB.

But it’s either that or nothing, Chow adds.

“This is the only option we’re given.”