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New school doomed to repeat history?

Construction will soon begin to expand 184 Street ahead of the school
Construction will soon begin to expand 184 Street ahead of the school's September 2018 opening.
— image credit: Sam Anderson

Mike Bola drops his son off at Lord Tweedsmuir every weekday morning for school.

Driving through the streets around the French immersion high school, he said, the situation is less than ideal.

“It’s very hard to travel there without having a blind spot,” he said. “Sometimes you have to look four times just before you cross the road because children are coming from every corner, cars are coming from every corner.”

As president of the Cloverdale Community Association, he hears complaints from other parents trying to drop their kids off at school in the morning. And now, he’s hearing concerns about Salish Secondary, the new high school being built on 184 Street and 72 Avenue.

Will parents driving to the new Salish Secondary be combating the same traffic they face at Lord Tweedsmuir and other schools in Surrey? Will there be sidewalks for the kids to walk down? Will the roads be widened to accommodate the increased traffic?

Bola doesn’t know all the answers. But he does know one thing: “We don’t want to repeat what’s happening at Lord Tweedsmuir.”

Salish Secondary will become the new home of Surrey’s French immersion program, and will have a capacity of 1,500 students.

Currently, the school is situated on a two-laned “rural-looking” road. And that has some parents worried.

One of those parents in Jennifer Doerksen, who currently lives in the Lord Tweedsmuir catchment. Her two oldest children have already graduated from Lord Tweedsmuir. But once Salish Secondary opens in September 2018, her Grade 7 daughter will find herself in the Salish Secondary catchment.

“Even though I can hear the Lord Tweedsmuir bell, my children won’t be allowed to go to Lord Tweedsmuir due to over capacity,” she said.

The current condition of the roads means that Doerksen will be driving her daughter to high school when the time comes. And she’s concerned that with so many other people thinking the same thing, the area will become chaotic.

“If you’re having 1,500 people who…are driving down those streets, the congestion and mayhem that’s going to occur in front of those schools is going to be exceptionally frustrating.”

The “congestion and mayhem” Doerksen fears comes from two quarters: the pedestrians and the drivers.

The city currently has one sidewalk on 184 Street. According to Philip Bellefontaine, Surrey’s transportation planning manager, that sidewalk falls under “quite an old standard, because that area is still quite rural looking.”

Doerksen was more pointed with her description: “I wouldn’t even call them sidewalks, just a little asphalt path down the side that’s in very poor condition.”

The city will be enhancing the sidewalk, Bellefontaine said, going from the school front up to Fraser Highway. He said they would also likely build a new sidewalk on the other side of the street, going from the school to 72 Ave. This second sidewalk would end at a bus stop for a new bus route coming into Clayton in the fall of 2017.

Where pedestrians and drivers merge is at crosswalks. One of the requirements for Salish Secondary is the installation of a traffic light at 73 Avenue and 184 Street, which the school district will help fund. It will also double as a crosswalk for pedestrians.

The installation of sidewalks and the traffic light will happen during the development of the school, so they are “in place, or well underway, by the time the school is open,” Bellefontaine said.

The school district has taken responsibility for the road in front of Salish Secondary, Doug Strachan, the communication services manager for the school district, said. It will build a drop-off lane on the school’s property, as well as widen 184 Street on the school side by filling in the ditch. The district is also building a small road off 72A Avenue to draw cars off the main road.

According to Surrey School District Site Manager Dick Koch, traffic light installation and some road expansion is expected to be finished by September 2017.

But the real road expansion is coming from the city, and it might have to wait for housing developments.

The city has designated 184 Street as an arterial road, meaning it’s expected to get a lot more traffic in the future. Today, the street has one lane in each direction, with a double yellow line as a median.

As housing developments start to appear in the area, Bellefontaine said, the city can work with the developments to widen the roads. According to Bellefontaine, this is because the new traffic from the development requires the road to be widened to deal with the influx. But it also has something to do with development cost charges.

This money is collected by the city and reinvested to upgrade arterial roads, like 184 Street. However, Bellefontaine said, this money has to go to a number of different areas around the city and because of that, there may be a delay between development and upgrading the infrastructure.

And for those parents imagining the traffic on 184 Street?

“Construction of that secondary school is not going to be the trigger for that more significant road widening,” Bellefontaine said. “And that’s why we have a package of other measures, like sidewalks and bus stops and crosswalks, are in place for when the school opens.”

Ultimately, Bola believes “the city is going to do the right thing,” but that “infrastructure is a big problem in the city here—we’re lacking.”

“We always fall behind,” he said. “And then we try to fix the issues after the fact. We don’t want to be doing that.”

 

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