One of Langley’s busiest roads will be considered again for widening – but cost will likely be an issue.
At its Monday night meeting, Township council unanimously approved a motion to study the possibility of widening 208th Street in Willoughby.
“The current situation that we have is rather untenable,” said Councillor Petrina Arnason, who put forward the motion.
One of the main north-south roads through the Willoughby neighbourhood, 208th Street was a quiet rural road 20 years ago. It began carrying more traffic when the 208th Street overpass was built in the late 1990s, and a connector allowed traffic to flow through south to the Willowbrook shopping area.
Development in Willoughby, now home to more than 30,000 people, has accelerated the increase in traffic. The road is intended to eventually be at least four lanes along its length from the overpass in the north to 64th Avenue in the south.
However, developers are widening only the sections in front of their projects, which means that some areas are two lanes, some three, and some four. The road widens and narrows several times beween 86th Avenue and 76 Avenue.
The 2015 report noted that the Township had no control over which parts of the road were widened first.
“As properties do not necessarily develop in sequential order, this can lead to a segmented widening, where some sections of the road fronting a particular development project may be upgraded and some other sections along the same road where there is no development activity may remain unimproved,” said the report.
This also means that some segments of the road have modern sidewalks and bike lanes, while others have asphalt pedestrian paths, open ditches, and gravel shoulders.
The 2015 study suggested widening the whole length of the road would cost about $46 million.
Arnason mentioned the fact that Willoughby is only 30 to 40 per cent built out, and yet the road is already congested, as a reason for action.
“I think it’s something whose time has come,” she said.
While council supported a new study, several councillors mentioned the last study, in 2015, and the possible cost.
“How are we going to do that without burdening the taxpayers of the Township of Langley?” said Coun. Charlie Fox.
A million dollar expenditure means a one per cent tax increase, he said. Based on the 2015 study, that could mean a 46 per cent tax hike.
“I don’t think we can do it all,” Fox said.
Coun. Blair Whitmarsh was also cautious about the costs. But he pointed out that since the last study was done, about 12,000 to 15,000 people have moved to the Township, the majority of them to Willoughby.
More information would be good, said Coun. Angie Quaale.
“I’d like to understand where we’re at,” she said.
“Willoughby has been developing for 18 years now, and the road has not gotten any better,” said Coun. Kim Richter. “In fact, it’s gotten worse.”
Mayor Jack Froese said he would be in favour of doing something if there is a way to do it without increasing the tax burden too heavily.
One major piece of 208th Street that is currently being widened is the highway overpass at the north edge of Willoughby. It is being expanded to four lanes, and the project is expected to finish this year.