EDITORIAL: Putting the brakes on 16 Avenue traffic

Installing more traffic lights along the 16 Avenue corridor may be a short-term fix, but something needs to be done to slow traffic.

If you are a driver who insists on doing the speed limit while travelling along 16 Avenue – a 30-kilometre stretch of road from Abbotsford to Ocean Park –  there is a good chance you will hear the honking of horns behind you and see headlights flashing in your rear-view mirror before motorists blast past you on one of its do-not-pass segments.

The speed limit along 16 Avenue is 60 km/h, but according to a recent study in South Surrey and South Langley, 85 per cent of the drivers are doing 80 km/h or more.

Residents of the area describe “maniac” motorists “practically breaking the sound barrier” in their haste to get through a two-lane rural route with narrow shoulders and steep ditches that leave little room for error.

As the rural portion of the road becomes more congested, people are getting more impatient, and the result, predictably, has been more crashes.

The joint study by Langley Township, Abbotsford and Surrey, along with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, ICBC and TransLink, declared that the 16 Avenue corridor “has a history of safety and traffic operation issues,” and “speeding is reportedly a problem.”

The road, a designated truck route and part of the regional Major Road Network, has seen a traffic increase of roughly two per cent every year, going to 12,400 vehicles per day from 8,880 vehicles in less than a decade.

About 13 to 16 per cent of that is truck traffic, more than the average arterial road, which carries five to 10 per cent trucks.

No surprise then, that a recent survey of residents found safety and traffic congestion were top concerns.

So now, in an effort to reduce accidents, there are plans to put traffic lights at several intersections along the corridor.

There has been some resistance from people who have warned that signal lights will increase congestion along an already-clogged artery and with it, increase frustration that leads impatient motorists to take risks. A better solution, they say, would be to upgrade the road to four lanes, as the long-range plans for 16 Avenue call for.

And that, according to one estimate, will take almost two decades.

While traffic lights are, perhaps, a less-than-ideal interim measure, something needs to be done now.

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