Some 60 South Surrey residents came out to ponder plans and voice concerns about the proposed Highway 99 - 16 Avenue interchange at an open house last week at Earl Marriott Secondary.

Some 60 South Surrey residents came out to ponder plans and voice concerns about the proposed Highway 99 - 16 Avenue interchange at an open house last week at Earl Marriott Secondary.

Residents critical of freeway plans

The Transportation ministry hosts an open house to gather input about the plans for an interchange between Highway 99 and 16 Avenue

There were more than a few furrowed brows as South Surrey residents got a first view of the proposed Highway 99/16 Avenue interchange at a public open house last week at Earl Marriott Secondary.

Around 60 people attended the late Thursday afternoon event; the biggest concern about the project – which the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure expects to begin as soon as February 2013 – seemed to come from residents of the Cherry Brook mobile home park at 162 Street and 16 Avenue.

They weren’t as worried about on- and off-ramps from the bridge over Highway 99 as they were by plans calling for four lanes and a median on 16 Avenue in the eastward approach to the bridge – a design feature they said would limit the principal access to their homes.

“I don’t like that my gate will be blocked off, that I won’t be able to turn left off of 16 Avenue onto 162 Street,” said Cherry Brook resident Anthony Gazzola, who predicted many of his neighbours would be up in arms about the idea.

“It’s not going to fly,” said resident Les Druschel, who said access to and from 16 Avenue is crucial for residents.

“It’d be more dangerous than it is now, after all these years of being able to do that.”

“We have to, at least, be able to get into our park,” said Druschel’s wife, Sharen. “Going out, I could see there being no left turn, but we have to be able to get in.”

Gazzola and the Druschels agreed that neighbouring Breakaway Bays mobile home park, connected to Cherry Brook, would have a significant increase in cars cutting through the park rather than venturing onto 16 Avenue from 162 Street.

“They’re going to notice a difference in traffic,” Sharen Druschel said.

Richard Ahrend, senior design engineer for project consultants R.F. Binnie and Associates – who conducted the open house – said the intent of the meeting was  to gather just such public input.

“When a project affects their access, people are concerned,” he said. “Lots of times local people know better. Our purpose is to find out the issues and see if they can be assimilated into the design.”

Other aspects of the plan, a partnership of the ministry and the City of Surrey valued at $24 million, are a four- to six-month construction process, with the bridge projected to be in operation by the fall of next year.

Work would include the demolition of the existing 16 Avenue bridge, the building of a new four-lane bridge with traffic signals at each end, and on and off ramps connecting the new bridge to Highway 99 in all four quadrants.

The building of it won’t be accomplished without short-term disruption of local traffic, the ministry acknowledges.

During construction, traffic across Highway 99 will be detoured south to 8 Avenue, via King George Boulevard and 168 Street. There will also be intermittent night-time closures of one set of lanes on Highway 99 during the process, although traffic on the highway is expected to be unaffected during daytime hours.

According to the ministry, benefits of the plan – which has already been hailed by the Surrey Board of Trade and the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce – include better access to Highway 99, improved connectivity between South Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford, and better accommodation of increasing cross-border traffic.

The ministry also sees the plan resulting in a partial easing of truck travel on municipal roads, particularly 32 Avenue.