Township council has agreed to once again study the feasibility of widening 208 Street in north Langley.
Residents and commuters alike have long complained that 208 Street is a congested roadway, cut up with construction, lanes that start and stop and gravel shoulders, all of which create safety issues.
At the Feb. 19 Township meeting, council unanimously agreed to update a 2015 report that looked at the costs and feasibility of the municipality widening 208 Street.
Currently, the Township relies on developers to finish the portion of the road that fronts their projects. It is a policy that many municipalities follow.
The motion to fast-track widening was made by Coun. Petrina Arnason, who feels the road through Langley’s most rapidly growing community is ‘untenable,’ causing ‘driver impatience’ and gridlock, halting the movement of goods and services and causing safety concerns for residents and drivers.
“I want the report to include the possibility of municipal borrowing to facilitate finishing the 208 Street corridor in a timely fashion,” said Arnason.
“This is our largest densification all in one area and Willoughby is only 30 per cent built out.”
“We have lots of tools in our tool box to address this. We need some political will,” she added. “Its time has come. Make it a safer community, make it flow better and look at it sooner rather than later.”
“I believe that there are possible opportunities to consider medium-term borrowing to complete the works, with subsequent DCCs from Willoughby-related developments being utilized to help to pay back the funds, similar to the rationale of Local Area Plan strategies,” Arnason said.
“The Township could also consider initiating a prepaid discounted DCC proposal in order to encourage ‘up front’ funding for developments adjacent to 208 in order to facilitate enhanced uptake prior to actual buildout.”
The 2015 report from staff estimated it would cost $47 million to widen 208 Street into four lanes, with an additional $12 million to widen the overpass.
“It’s been three years since the report (was written). Since then, 12,000 to 15,000 more people have come to Langley and most of them on the Willoughby slope.
(It’s a) very busy road, lots of challenges with it,” said Coun. Blair Whitmarsh. “It’s time.”
Coun. Charlie Fox said he doesn’t think anything can be done unless taxpayers want to shoulder a huge increase to their property taxes.
“We would have to expropriate the land at a very lofty price and I don’t know how we are going to do that without burdening the taxpayers,” said Fox.
In a later interview, Fox said when the 2015 report was made the Smith neighbourhood plan wasn’t complete and now it is. That densified development will go in from 72 Avenue north to around 77a Avenue, near 208 Street.
The 208 Street debate was an election issue for Mayor Jack Froese when he first ran.
“When I was first elected, the question I asked was why don’t we fix 208 Street,” said Froese.
The widening of the 208 Street overpass will be open soon, he added.
Coun. Kim Richter said 208 Street is a perfect example of not properly planning communities.
“Willoughby has been developing out for 18 years now, and that road has gotten worse not better,” she said. “It is because of the lack of phasing-in development. We owe it to the taxpayers in the area. That road needs to be fixed.”
Richter said what has happened in Willoughby must not happen in the development of Brookswood-Fernridge.
No timeline has been set for the new report on 208 Street widening.