Closing down the west-bound lane of Marine Drive to allow increased patio space for restaurants and a larger walkway for pedestrians would be a challenging and costly measure, according to a city staff report. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Closing down the west-bound lane of Marine Drive to allow increased patio space for restaurants and a larger walkway for pedestrians would be a challenging and costly measure, according to a city staff report. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Challenges stall one-way proposal for White Rock’s Marine Drive

Measure to help businesses and offer greater distancing could be costly, council hears

A suggestion for a one-way route along Marine Drive during COVID-19 restrictions appears to have arrived at a dead-end – for now.

A motion from Coun. Christopher Trevelyan (at White Rock council’s April 19 regular meeting) had asked staff to look into a lane-closure of White Rock’s principal waterfront road during the current dine-in ban to support expanded restaurant patios and more distanced pedestrian traffic.

But at its April 26 meeting council turned down a further motion to close the lane and create a one-way, on a 5-2 split vote, with only Trevelyan and Coun Scott Kristjanson voting in support.

Engineering and municipal operations director Jim Gordon had told council that while the northern lane of Marine Drive could be closed, allowing only east-bound traffic along the waterfront, the move would present many challenges – and would require two weeks, at least, to put into effect.

READ ALSO: White Rock council to review report on turning Marine Drive into one-way street

“You would be looking at $30,000 to $40,000 just to set it up and get the proper barriers,” Gordon said.

Among the challenges, Gordon said, would be providing that the closed lane could still be opened to allow access to fire and police services and also delivery trucks for restaurants, which must unload goods from Marine Drive.

A single emergency incident on a one-lane Marine Drive would likely result in “gridlock” he told council.

The one-way traffic would also result in considerable detours for local traffic which would put a further load on nearby streets such as Victoria Avenue, he warned.

Also to be considered were insurance liability, he added, and the determination of who, between businesses, the BIA and the city, would assume it.

Not the least of the problems, he said, would be ensuring that drivers understood the changes, which would mean extra signage and possibly assigning flag-people to direct traffic.

Crowding a concern

Meanwhile, Coun. David Chesney warned council that it needed to “get out in front” of a potential pandemic disaster by being ready to take steps to discourage the usual influx of visitors to Marine Drive during spring and summer weather.

“We need to do something about this now,” he said. “(We just had) a very unusual 10-day stretch of spectacular weather and we saw what happened down there – huge crowds of people, no masks, no social distancing and it’s only going to get worse.

READ ALSO: Social distancing on Marine Drive comes under council scrutiny

“We can start thinking about this now, or we’ll be trying to put out a raging fire on our waterfront.”

After extended discussion of Chesney’s call for a further report on crisis situation planning – which received support from Trevelyan – it was decided that staff would continue current communication measures to suggest that White Rock is not offering its usual welcome to visitors, including lighted reader boards on Johnston Road and at either end of Marine Drive.

Chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero responded to Chesney that staff had already provided a report with 19 options for limiting visits to the waterfront, and there was little else that staff could contribute, other than being ready follow council’s direction on closures or limits placed on some areas, including the waterfront parking lots.

“We don’t have the authority to stop people coming to White Rock,” he told council, although he said staff would follow Chesney’s suggestion of continuing to reach out to Fraser Health for suggestions on how to limit pandemic risk.

Chesney also acceded to Mayor Darryl Walker’s suggestion that a motion to request a report from the White Rock BIA – on ways residents could be encouraged to patronize waterfront businesses during pandemic restrictions – would be better handled by a letter.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article said council received the one-way Marine Drive staff report for information and did not vote on the matter. However, council voted 5-2 to reject the idea of turning Marine Drive into a one-way route.

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