While the Olympic torch brings excitement and anticipation for the upcoming Winter Games, it also brings a whole lot of traffic congestion along local roadways.
With tens of thousands of people expected to take part in the festivities when the Olympic torch arrives in Langley on Monday, Feb. 8, the RCMP and local torch run organizers are stressing that people need to be aware and prepared for long waits and slow-moving traffic.
“It is going to be quite busy and congested,” said Sgt. Don Davidson of the Langley RCMP. “Don’t expect to travel at great speed.
“Once (the convoy) starts going through, you are looking at 20 minutes or a half hour (where you) are stuck.”
Davidson will be travelling with the relay security team in the convoy, and will be in charge of altering the route if something unforeseen comes up during the torch’s march through town.
It will be preceded by a police car and an Olympic vehicle 30 minutes ahead of it, and then a Township fire truck 15 minutes prior to the torch arriving.
The torch is expected to cross the Golden Ears Bridge shortly before 9 a.m. on the Monday. It will be travelling in a car at that point, part of a larger convoy of vehicles.
The torch relay route begins in Walnut Grove and Fort Langley, before heading to Aldergrove. Willoughby is its next destination before moving to Langley City.
All along the way, there will be significant road closures, with some roads being completely shut, while others will only be partially open to traffic.
While Fort Langley and Aldergrove will pretty much be completely shut down, Walnut Grove and Willoughby will experience rolling road closures, meaning once the tail end of the convoy passes, police will begin permitting traffic into the affected areas.
The best course of action for people is to avoid these areas if at all possible, Davidson stressed.
“Walnut Grove is one of the more significant challenges for us,” added Township Councillor Jordan Bateman, who is the chair of the Langley torch relay committee.
Bateman used the example of Gordon Greenwood Elementary School on 206 Street, where the torch will pass by when many parents will be trying to drop off their children before leaving.
“We want to warn parents to expect severe traffic delays,” Bateman said, adding that he expects to meet with the school’s officials this week.
“We are going to make sure (parents) have a plan to get in and out.”
“This is right around school opening time (so if you drop kids off) you may get stuck in that area,” added Davidson. “Maybe be prepared to stay and watch this go by with your kids.”
The torch will wind up its tour of Langley at the Langley Events Centre, with the lighting of the official Olympic cauldron.
Bateman expects 4,000 or 5,000 people at the venue.
With that in mind, parking will be at a premium at the building. The only access to the LEC will be from 202A Street. People who want to park there should arrive no later than 10 a.m.
There will also be parking at the nearby Mountainview Alliance Church as well as parking can be found northwest of the 80 Avenue and 200 Street intersection in the tech campus area.
“There is definitely going to be a parking crunch,” Bateman said, adding that they are encouraging those spectators at LEC to stick around for some of the festivities after the Olympic torch departs.
“Basically, don’t be in a rush to leave,” he said.
“There is going to be gridlock, so they might as well stay and enjoy the afternoon.”
Upon leaving the Events Centre, the torch will make its way down 200 Street and enter Langley City.
With 200 Street being a commuter route, Davidson said it will be tough to control the traffic, so they hope that word gets out and people are able to avoid the area when at all possible.
People are especially asked to avoid the Langley Bypass and 200 Street at around 2 p.m. when the flame crosses over from the Township to the City.
“We can’t shut the Bypass down but I think the convoy certainly will,” Davidson said. “It is going to be quite busy and congested (so) don’t expect to travel at great speed.”
City officials were urging people to be prepared.
“Parking will be at a premium,” said Councillor Teri James.
“Please walk or car pool if you can, because parking will be tight.”
James said volunteers, or ambassadors, will be decked out in yellow so as to be easily identifiable for people who may have any questions. They will also be handing out free Canadian flags.
There is also a community party taking place at City Hall.
While there are so far no indications that any protests are planned when the Olympic torch comes to Langley, Davidson said there will be a designated safe assembly site set up for any protesters who wish to attend the event.
Davidson stressed that while there will be a large police presence, they do not anticipate making a lot of arrests.
“Someone would have to be a major threat to public safety before we are going to take them into custody,” he said.
Road closures for the Olympic torch relay
***Walnut Grove (8:15 to 9:45 a.m.):
After arriving from the Golden Ears Bridge, the torch will come down 199A Street and then go east onto 96 Avenue. At 208 Street, the torch will head south before making its way east along 88 Avenue and stopping at 216 Street at 9:36 a.m.
During that time, traffic will only be permitted to head west on 88 and 96, and north on 208.
Fort Langley (9:15 to 11 a.m.):
The relay heads east along 88 Avenue, turns northeast onto Bartlett Street, west on Francis Avenue, and then northeast onto Queen Street. The torch will then make its way to the Fort Langley National Historic Site (23433 Mavis Ave.) before continuing west along Mavis and heading southwest on Glover Road back to 88 Avenue.
Traffic will be open westbound on 88 Avenue and northbound along Glover Road. There will be full road closures on Mavis Avenue, Queen Street and Bartlett Street.
Aldergrove (10 to 11:45 a.m.):
The Aldergrove segment begins on 32 Avenue, where it will head east before turing south down Station Road, then travel west along Fraser Highway, and finally turn north onto 264 Street.
Road closures during that time include both directions along Fraser Highway between 276 and 268 Strees. Fraser Highway will be open eastbound from 264 to 268, and traffic will be permitted northbound on Station Road and westbound along 32 Avenue.
***Willoughby (11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.):
The torch will run south down 200 Street from Highway 1 to the Langley Events Centre. After the official lighting of the Olympic cauldron, it will continue south down 200 Street, make a quick detour down 64 Avenue to 203 Street and back, and then continue south on 200 to the Langley Bypass.
During that time, traffic will only be permitted northbound along 200 Street.
Traffic in both directions on 64 Avenue will be closed.
Langley City (noon and 3 p.m):
The torch will travel from 200 Street to Fraser Highway,where it will head east to 204 Street. The torch will then go south down 204 and right on Douglas Crescent. After a brief stop at City Hall, it will proceed down Douglas to 56 Avenue and then to 196 Street.
Traffic will not be permitted on Douglas Crescent between 203 and 204 Streets.
*** rolling road closures in these areas