Changes afoot for pedestrians, drivers in uptown White Rock

A man dashes in front of an oncoming vehicle to cross Johnston Road just south of the pedestrian crosswalk. A city task force is examining moving the crosswalk and removing the left-turn lane into Central Plaza. - Tracy Holmes
A man dashes in front of an oncoming vehicle to cross Johnston Road just south of the pedestrian crosswalk. A city task force is examining moving the crosswalk and removing the left-turn lane into Central Plaza.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes

Changes are in the wind for White Rock’s Johnston Road, with an aim to improve the safety of the uptown thoroughfare for pedestrians and motorists alike.

Key steps named include the removal of a northbound, left-turn lane into Central Plaza – located just south of North Bluff Road and identified by ICBC as a hazard – and a shift south for a pedestrian crosswalk in that same area.

Improvements to sidewalks and the median between North Bluff Road and Thrift Avenue are also being suggested, confirmed Coun. Al Campbell, chair of the city’s new Johnston Road reconstruction and beautification task force. Those suggestions include construction of a continuous fence on the median between traffic lights and crosswalks, to curb jaywalking.

“It is extremely dangerous,” Campbell told Peace Arch News, of median turn lanes that provide access to Central Plaza to traffic northbound on Johnston Road and westbound on North Bluff Road.

“And (ICBC) really don’t like this crosswalk situation on Johnston Road. They’ve talked about that for years as just being an accident waiting to happen.

“You’ve got two driveways going in and people crossing at the exact same location, and it’s brutal.”

Council was to consider the task force’s recommendations Monday evening, after PAN’s press deadline.

At least one Central Plaza merchant said she is not in favour of the northbound left-turn lane being removed. It will only hurt business, said Jessica Theriault, owner of The Gallery Art Supplies & Framing.

“This whole uptown area, so many of the businesses are moving out of the area as it is, and to limit the access to just the one corner here that’s in front of Save-On and in front of the TD Bank is ridiculous,” Theriault said Monday.

“They should be trying to encourage business, not limit access.”

Campbell does not expect the proposed changes to be an issue, but assured there would be “really good public consultation” before any work proceeds.

Overseeing public input and feedback into the reconstruction/beautification design is the newly formed task force’s mandate.

Greg St. Louis, the city’s director of engineering and municipal operations, said removal of the left-turn lane is likely, “because it’s been identified by ICBC, as we know as well, as a safety concern.”

With it gone and the crosswalk moved, there would be opportunity to extend the left-turn lane at the intersection, he said, noting changes would also reduce “hazardous” southbound backups and congestion in the intersection.

St. Louis said Johnston Road improvements are on the city’s to-do list for this year.

Regarding sidewalks, Campbell said engineers have designs well underway. The existing walkways are “totally heaved” by tree roots, he said.

The end result should complement the finished-concrete look already in place by the Miramar Village and Saltaire developments, he said.

“Those have to be part of the big package,” he said. “Whatever we have there, we need to blend it.”

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