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Delta throwback: Still no luck getting pedestrian overpass

Province has found no need to construct a pedestrian overpass across the busy Tsawwassen highway
52 street at highway 17, tsawwasen
Pedestrians have to traverse a lengthy crosswalk across several lanes of traffic to cross Highway 17 at 52 Street.

Let’s head back to January 1976 when Delta Mayor Tom Goode urged the request the provincial government for a pedestrian overpass, a request that remains unfulfilled today.

During his inaugural address highlighting Delta events the previous year and needs of the community, Goode stressed the need for a new pedestrian overpass at the “hazardous” intersection at Highway 17 and 52 Street.

He said it was a much-needed project that was stalled due to a lack of cooperation by the previous provincial government.

“We have waited long enough for action on this dangerous intersection and I would ask Highways Minister Alex Fraser to put this traffic hazard at the top of his priority list,” said Goode.

Fast forward to 2021 and Delta South MLA Ian Paton is saying the province should be working with the Tsawwassen First Nation to develop a new pedestrian overpass.

He put forward that request to Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming for the province to look at constructing an overpass at 52nd Street and Highway 17, noting pedestrian safety should be the top priority.

Paton said before the mall at the TFN was constructed, the highway was five lanes in width. It is now nine lanes after the expansion and widening of Highway 17.

He also said the roadway was 35 metres in width at Highway 17 at 52 Street, but it is now around 60 metres.

“Of course, I need not mention the amount of traffic that attends this mall now and the amount of traffic that is racing to get to the BC Ferries terminal,” added Paton.

It’s an issue that had been previously pushed hard by the City of Delta.

“We’ve been asking for that for a long time and, unfortunately, it wasn’t deemed necessary and that’s absolutely unacceptable,” Mayor George Harvie said in 2019.

Former transportation minister Todd Stone previously noted that, following the mall’s opening, ministry staff conducted engineering evaluations and no safety issues were observed, contrary to concerns Delta had been raising.

“These assessments found that pedestrian volumes were lower than the forecasted volumes, which were considered when the business case was undertaken to address the merits of a pedestrian overpass. In addition, staff did not observe pedestrian overcrowding on the traffic islands or any other pedestrian related safety concerns,” Stone said in a letter to Delta council.

A business case commissioned by the ministry, looking into whether an overpass was needed, found such a structure, estimated at roughly $5 million, offered no significant benefit and was not justified.

According to Delta’s engineering department, that conclusion was incorrect, considering how pedestrians trying to access two large shopping malls have to cross an increasingly busy Highway 17.