Closing the north lane of White Rock’s Marine Drive to create an eastbound one way - aimed at providing outdoor seating space for waterfront restaurants - must wait for creation of a traffic plan, staff say. (File photo)

Closing the north lane of White Rock’s Marine Drive to create an eastbound one way - aimed at providing outdoor seating space for waterfront restaurants - must wait for creation of a traffic plan, staff say. (File photo)

White Rock’s Marine Drive lane closure awaits traffic plan

Safety, emergency accessibility are key factors being examined

Marine Drive restaurateurs were quick last week to celebrate White Rock’s impending closure of one lane of Marine Drive to create an eastbound one-way. But it’s going to take a while yet to achieve, according to city staff.

The move – designed to boost outdoor seating capacity and offset losses sustained during the current dining-in ban – was set in motion at council’s May 10 meeting.

But director of engineering and municipal operations Jim Gordon and city staff, plus White Rock Fire and White Rock RCMP and the White Rock BIA, are still continuing to work out the details, including a traffic management plan, before putting the measure into action, communications manager Donna Kell said, at Peace Arch News’ press time.

“Safety will be a top consideration,” she said, adding there is no timeline yet for how long it will take for the closure to be put in place.

By Gordon’s own reckoning, in an earlier discussion with council, it would take at least two weeks from the decision to close the lane.

READ ALSO: Council votes to make Marine Drive one-way route

The measure will last at least into September, Kell said, although no specific start or end dates have been set.

She noted that updates will be posted on a dedicated page as part of the city website:

In addition, as noted on the website, city staff will connect directly with residents affected by the closure, including those who live along Marine Drive. Advertising and social media will also be used to deliver updates and more specific information.

The traffic plan will make sure that people who live along Marine Drive can still access their resident-permit parking, according to the website, while the city will also work with TransLink to determine temporary routes for buses that currently travel along Marine Drive.

Among other logistics being worked out are negotiations with suppliers of barriers, the website page notes.

Estimated costs are $50,000 to install the barriers, plus a monthly rental cost of the equipment, estimated at some $40,000, it states, which will be paid for out of the COVID‐19 Safe Restart Grant for Local Governments.

The traffic plan must also ensure that delivery trucks and garbage collection vehicles can continue to access the waterfront for deliveries and pickups, it says.

Samantha McQuade, general manager of Primo’s Mexican Grill, and vice-chair of the White Rock BIA, told Peace Arch News last week that businesses are sure the safety aspects can be worked out.

“Through our conversations with the BIA and through meeting with a lot of other business owners from the Marine Drive community, we’ve mitigated most of the challenges that we were concerned about as far as safety,” she said. “We’re mostly just excited.”

McQuade said the move means that her restaurant alone would probably be able to, at least, double its present seating capacity.

“With the loss of the inside tables we basically lost 90 per cent of our seating capacity through the stages of the public health order,” she said.

“For us to be able to expand our outdoor seating is invaluable. We only had three tables at the beginning of this on our patio and there’s absolutely no way to survive with three tables.”

The measure will continue into September whether or not provincial health orders banning indoor dining are lifted earlier, the website adds.

McQuade noted that council members had been concerned that need for extra outdoor space would be nullified by a change in provincial health orders.

“But once they took a look back and saw how much we’ve lost already, up until this point, they realized that it doesn’t matter if the PHO lifts, we’re all still about 300 per cent down in revenue since last year.”

– with files from Aaron Hinks

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