An attempt to discourage queue-jumping at the Pacific Highway border crossing in South Surrey is only going to cause more fender-benders, says a critic of the chicane currently under construction on 2 Avenue.
Resident Alex Davie says the attempt to deliberately create a bottleneck by building a sharp s-curve along 2 Avenue near 175A Street doesn’t leave enough room for cars to safely share the road.
Davie is a retired Surrey firefighter who says he bases his opinion on his own experience navigating large vehicles through city streets.
“I was told (by a staffer in the City of Surrey engineering department) that the road was 18 feet wide and that was enough,” he said. “I told him, bring your car down and I’ll bring mine and we’ll try it. We will side-swipe each other.”
City of Surrey transport planning manager Philip Bellefontaine maintains the chicane has enough room for two regular-sized cars to pass in opposite directions without colliding.
“We don’t anticipate side-swipes happening,” Bellefontaine told Peace Arch News Thursday. “It’s low (numbers of) vehicles and slow speeds.”
Bellefontaine said once the chicane is completed, it will have a centre-line marker to help keep the lanes and vehicles separated.
City records show the chicane was not the first choice, either of local residents or experts who prepared a report on the potential impact of queue-jumping in advance of planned new housing in the Douglas neighbourhood.
A 1999 staff report to council shows residents told the city the ideal solution would be to close off 2 Avenue access to the highway leading to the U.S. border, once construction of a new subdivision got underway.
But when business owners in the area objected, the chicane was adopted as an “acceptable” alternative, according to the report’s author, engineer Jamie Umpleby.
In 2007, the issue was revisited in a consultant’s report that said the best solution to the queue-jumping problem would be to close 2 Avenue. The report, by T.J. Ward Consulting Group, recommended that “some sort of alignment shift be considered to discourage such traffic,” while acknowledging “it appears to be too late to achieve this configuration,” an apparent reference to the business objections.
As a result, the Ward report calls for a chicane that would “permit passenger vehicles to pass through it but not commercial vehicles.”
Davie said that while queue-jumpers are evident, the chicane won’t stop the small vehicles that create most of that kind of traffic.
“On Sundays, it’s like rush hour.”
He said most residents would still prefer to have the road realigned to prevent access from 2 Avenue to the border lineup.
Davie has also contacted ICBC to warn the design of the chicane will likely lead to an increase in claims.