It’s time to do something about a busy intersection by the Tsawwassen Mills before someone is killed, says Mayor George Harvie who plans to renew the push for pedestrian overpass at 52nd Street and Highway 17.
“We’ve been asking for that for a long time and, unfortunately, it wasn’t deemed necessary and that’s absolutely unacceptable,” Harvie told the Optimist in a recent interview.
Noting it’s also “shameful” for TransLink not to provide a shelter for Tsawwassen residents and mall employees at the bus stop across the mall, Harvie said it’s something he’ll be pushing for once again with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Bryce Williams.
“I’ll be talking to the minister of transportation because this is a provincial highway…the province is making substantial revenue off the Tsawwassen First Nation’s malls, provincial sales tax, and when you look at all that revenue, they can’t provide something back to the community that is affected by their Highway 17? That’s not fair.”
Things had gone quite for the past couple of years on Delta request for the province to build a pedestrian overpass following a reply by then transportation minister Todd Stone, who noted that following the mall 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 council at the time.
An earlier 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 is not justified.
“The current intersection improvements, like similar intersections within the Lower Mainland, provide adequate accommodation for pedestrians and cyclists,” the report concluded.
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.
Pedestrians have to traverse a 40-metre crosswalk across seven lanes of traffic and two additional turning lanes beyond the pedestrian refuge islands. Pedestrians trying to cross at night are placed at even further risk, while ferry traffic exacerbates the situation.
The engineering department also used drone footage of pedestrians trying to cross, showing one shocking footage of a person deciding to take a risky run across the highway.
Delta police Chief Neil Dubord also supported having an overpass, telling council the length of the intersection combined with the speed of traffic, in addition to the timing of the signal lights, makes it difficult for people to cross in a timely fashion.