Michael Lee

Roads study provides ammunition for District of Kent

New transportation network plan gives the big picture on local Agassiz roads

The District of Kent will soon be able to make more informed decisions about road planning thanks to a recent investigation into all things road-related in Agassiz.

Council hired Boulevard Transportation, a company that specializes in transportation planning and engineering services to undertake a detailed study of local road networks.

Data collection was done using a variety of methods, explains Nadine King, transportation engineer with Boulevard. Automatic counters on roads collected data such as traffic volume, speed and vehicle classifications like whether bicycles, cars or big rigs were traveling the road. They also did manual counts at key intersections during peak hours, general observations and photo logging. They collected information from the Ministry of Transportation and ICBC. On top of that, they looked at other studies that had a connection to local transportation planning, including the Official Community Plan (OCP), Active Transportation plan and other previous reports.

All the data helps paint a picture of the usage, concerns and future potential for the district’s 61 kilometres of paved roads and 19 kilometres of gravel roads and Ministry highways that run through the community.

Mayor John Van Laerhoven says the transporation network plan was a logical next step following the recently-completed OCP. While he is waiting on Boulevard’s upcoming presentation to Council, Van Laerhoven says he already knows one concern he would like to see addressed: the lack of a bypass route through town for highway traffic. As for other community priorities, he says that will take time to sort out.

“There are as many viewpoints on this as there are people in town,” he says.

The most recent step undertaken by Boulevard was to host an open house in Agassiz last Thursday, Dec. 11. Roughly 20 to 25 people showed up to listen to Boulevard’s findings, ask questions and provide feedback. King says the main concerns from residents at the open house centred around the highway route through town. Issues include high truck traffic and volume as well as the safety of pedestrian crossings along Cheam Ave.

Councillors Sylvia Pranger and Susan Spaeti attended the open house. Spaeti says what surprised her about the presentation was how few accidents were listed. While the accident statistics came from ICBC reports over the last five years, the problem is there are so many traffic incidents that aren’t reported, Spaeti relays.

“There’s been so many near-misses and that’s what’s scary,” says Spaeti. “We want to create a community where people can safely walk around.”

Spaeti hopes the findings of the study will provide more “ammunition” to work with the government for road network changes the District would like to see happen on provincially owned roads.

The data will help the district come up with a plan for road classifications and potential future adjustments. King explains that classification of roads helps determine road standards, such as how wide a lane should be or how big of a shoulder it needs. It will also allow the district to come up with an integrated plan for road networks, bicycle and pedestrian routes and facilities such as sidewalks and off-road trails through the community.

Now that the first steps are done, Boulevard will be putting together a presentation for the District of Kent council in late January or early February. There will also be another open house in the new year and a final Council presentation set for March.

At the end of the whole process, King says the community should have a good idea of where the emphasis needs to be on future projects.

“We’ll end up with a plan for community priorities and costs and those allow the District to prioritize and plan,” concludes King.

One of the data collection methods used by Boulevard was a survey. There is still one day to have your say on transportation issues in the District. The transportation network plan survey can be found on the district’s website on the homepage. Surveys must be completed by tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 19.