White Rock Coun. Louise Hutchinson says buses like the 351 are too big for the city's streets

White Rock ‘no place for big buses’

Congestion cited in discussion for next concept plan for Johnston Road reconstruction.

If it was up to Coun. Louise Hutchinson, a plan to upgrade the uptown Johnston Road corridor would include removing full-size transit buses from all White Rock streets.

“My goal one day is not to have the 351s here at all,” Hutchinson said last week, at an Oct. 9 meeting of the Johnston Road Reconstruction and Beautification Task Force.

“We don’t need great, big, long buses in White Rock.”

Hutchinson, who is not running for re-election, made the comment amid discussion of the latest concept plan for the two-block stretch of Johnston Road – between North Bluff Road and Thrift Avenue – which includes a bus stop immediately south of North Bluff, abutting the entrance to Central Plaza.

The location, often congested, is “bad,” Hutchinson said, suggesting the stop be moved further south.

But merchants – who have been vocal in their opposition of engineers’ calls to eliminate a left-turn lane into Central Plaza for northbound traffic and shifting the crosswalk connecting to the mall south – described the suggestion as “another thing against business.”

“When you moved the (bus loop)… off North Bluff, it was a huge impact on my business,” said Shelly O’Brien, owner of Pelican Rouge Coffee Co.

Task-force chair Coun. Al Campbell said at the time of that move, about three years ago, plans were in the works to redevelop Semiahmoo Shopping Centre “to be a Metrotown.” If that had gone ahead, “we wouldn’t be having this (discussion),” he said.

Answering a question about the possibility of re-directing buses through the Central Plaza parking lot, city manager Dan Bottrill said a similar proposal for the Centre for Active Living fell through due to lack of maneuverability.

The meeting also covered findings of an independent arborist hired for a second opinion on mature trees that line the thoroughfare – a move promised by the mayor at the last public meeting on July 16.

Campbell – who earlier described the mayor’s promise as “almost a slap in the face” to the city’s arborist – told Peace Arch News Tuesday that the $3,100 report gave the task force little additional information.

City engineer Bob Ambardar told task-force members that Bill Wilde of Arbor Vitae Tree Consultants recommended removing about 17 of 32 trees –  all but one between North Bluff Road and Russell Avenue.

He was “a little more aggressive than we first were, in terms of saving trees,” Ambardar said.

According to the report, the majority of the trees were not planted correctly; 28 have root defects; a dozen more require further inspection and analysis.

Ambardar said a 40-page traffic-safety report supports eliminating the northbound left-turn lane into Central Plaza and shifting the mid-block crosswalk south.

The intersection of North Bluff and Johnston is “the worst one” for accidents in White Rock, Ambardar said, noting 40 crashes have occurred over the past three years.

Laura Shaw of Laura’s Fashion Fabrics said she’d like proposed changes to be assessed to determine if they will do much to improve pedestrian and motorist safety.

She noted a merchant survey she did by email found 34 “totally against moving the crosswalk, closing the left-turn lane.”

“We are all not happy with these structure changes,” she said. “It’s just going to discourage people from coming to White Rock.”

Landscape architect Daryl Tyacke of ETA Landscape Architects told the task force he can offer an unbiased take on things.

“As an outside set of eyes, I maybe can bring something to the table that maybe a local person doesn’t see every day,” Tyacke said.

“This is really your gateway into the community. It really should be spectacular and it really can be.”

Campbell told PAN he expects the next draft of the concept plan will be ready for public consumption in the new year.

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