A new study has been launched that will help determine a long-term plan for part of the Trans-Canada Highway, known as the Upper Levels Highway, a busy stretch of roadway between north and west Vancouver.
The provincial government has awarded a $110,000 contract to engineering and professional services firm Parsons Inc. to evaluate the feasibility of improvements so that an action plan can be developed for the key east-west thoroughfare that is heavily used by people who live and work on the North Shore.
The scope of the work is wide-ranging and, in addition to suggesting potential improvements, will assess current and future performance of the route, as well as predicting travel demand to the year 2050. The winding, 38-kilometre portion of highway to be studied runs from Lynn Valley Road to Horseshoe Bay.
“With another million people expected in the Lower Mainland over the next 20 years, we need to start the early work now to keep traffic moving and encourage more active transportation,” provincial Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena, who is MLA for North Island, explained in a statement.
“This study will identify potential future improvements to the Upper Levels Highway that connects people to ferries, the Sea to Sky Highway, work and school, and the many recreational activities this region has to offer.”
The study will complement work that’s being done as part of the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project, or INSTPP, which brought together TransLink, two First Nations and three levels of government to collaborate on a long-term transportation plan for the North Shore area.
Bowinn Ma, MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale who has been outspoken on the need for improvements and initiated the INSTPP, said area residents are frustrated by the piecemeal approach past governments have taken to transportation planning and determining next steps for the Upper Levels Highway will help the region move forward.
“What we will get from this study is an assessment on the performance of the highway as it exists now and an implementation plan for cost-effective improvements that will help the highway serve the region well into the future.”
Ma, an engineer by profession, said transportation and congestion continue to be top priorities for North Shore residents.
“It became evident to me very early on that one of the challenges we faced in regard to resolving the transportation challenges people face on the North Shore was the absence of an overall, coordinated strategy that united the approaches of all governments and public agencies with responsibility for transportation on the North Shore.”
The INSTPP, she said, resulted in a unified strategy and action plan for tackling the issue of transportation on the North Shore in a coordinated fashion.
“Our transportation networks must be treated as systems,” she said. “We cannot expect to improve overall mobility without an overall strategy that considers the overall transportation network and takes into account all modes of transportation.”
Ma maintains that the transportation reviews of the North Shore routes should have been done long ago. One of the problems is that much of the infrastructure along the thoroughfare was built during the 1960s.
She said previous governments have approached transportation bottlenecks on an “ad hoc basis” and spent billions of dollars, only to push traffic bottlenecks to somewhere else in the road network.
“Governments that fail to appreciate the concept of induced demand end up spending enormous amounts of money to move congestion around, all while making the problem even worse.”
The new study, she said, is a continuation of the approach taken by INSTPP and is meant to work in conjunction with the wider INSTPP strategy while continuing the collaboration with local governments.
“It is a thoughtful, data-driven approach to ensure that the Upper Levels Highway can serve the region into the future. This is good news for people who use the highway to travel through the region, but also for local travelers.”
Earlier analysis done as part of INSTPP showed that the Upper Levels Highway was used for local trips at a far higher rate than anywhere else in the region.
“In short, the Upper Levels Highway is heavily relied upon to compensate for the lack of local east-west connections within the North Shore itself,” said Ma.
The new study, scheduled to be completed by next summer, will look at upgrades to the highway, along with opportunities to boost travel by transit and active transportation. It will also consider local government priorities and evaluate the impact of a potential expansion of the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay that would funnel more vehicles onto the road.
The MTOI reaffirmed in a statement prepared for Journal of Commerce that the study will build on the work that’s being done as part of the INSTPP.
“In particular, the study will zero in on how to address current and anticipated future issues for transit, passenger vehicles, heavy vehicles and active transportation,” the statement read. “The study will also identify high-level recommendations for potential future needs along the corridor.”
The statement noted that the ministry will take recommendations from the study under consideration when developing future plans to support the multi-modal mobility, safety and reliability of the highway.