As the task force working on sprucing up White Rock’s Johnston Road closes in on final designs, the group’s chair says a 24/7 shutdown of the street to traffic is not on the agenda.
But Coun. Al Campbell said he is not ruling out the idea that the uptown portion of the road could be pedestrian-only once in a while.
“If it’s a really beautiful-looking street and everything’s up to code… we would be able to be in a position to have a pedestrian-oriented function there,” Campbell told Peace Arch News.
“But that’s not the duty of this task force.
“Right now… it’s about rebuilding what we have. We’re trying to bring it up to 2014, good for the next 30 years.”
The foot-traffic-only concept was raised at a June 17 open house hosted by the Johnston Road reconstruction and beautification task force to collect feedback on proposed designs for the uptown stretch of Johnston, from North Bluff Road to Thrift Avenue.
According to Coun. Helen Fathers – who is not on the task force – the majority of those who turned out favoured the pedestrian-only concept.
Fathers said Coun. Louise Hutchinson, who is on the task force, posed the question “out of curiosity,” and two-thirds of the 60-plus attendees raised their hand in support.
The concept, Campbell told PAN, is not new – it was first bandied about in the ’80s. But it’s “not reasonable” now to bar vehicles from one of the city’s main entry points, he said.
Campbell said engineers tasked with the redesign are looking at four key – and somewhat contentious – areas: the sidewalks, the trees, crosswalks and access to Central Plaza.
Area merchants, he added, are top-of-mind in the effort. Pedestrian safety also ranks high. In that regard, the sidewalks – with paving bricks pushed up by tree roots – are a particular hazard, he said.
“You can’t leave it the way it is. It’s just too dangerous,” Campbell said.
New sidewalks are eyed for both sides of the street, graded toward the road to avoid flooding issues.
Fathers said the proposed removal of the mature trees on either side of Johnston did not sit well with attendees.
Other ideas presented at the open house include eliminating the crosswalk just south of North Bluff Road, and removing six parking spaces on the west side of Johnston Road to enable two lanes for southbound traffic.
Those two moves are particularly concerning for one longtime business owner.
Laura Shaw of Laura’s Fashion Fabrics said taking out the crosswalk – which she remembers fighting to keep 10-12 years ago – will disrupt the traditional movement of people in the area. Removing the six parking spaces is “not going to encourage people to stop to shop in White Rock.”
“It’s just awful,” she said.
Campbell said engineers will implement various aspects of the open-house feedback into new designs that he hopes will be ready for public perusal early this month (July).
He acknowledged that not everyone is supportive of the pending changes – “some people don’t want to do anything,” he said.
“Not everybody will get their wish,” he said.
Work is to be done in two phases: from North Bluff to Russell, then from Russell to Thrift. Campbell estimated the final cost at “plus-or-minus $1 million.”