Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The High Cost of 208th Street Expansion

If you talk to anyone who lives in Willoughby or Walnut Grove, they’ll likely tell you that 208th Street is a mess. 208th Street varies between 2 and 4 lanes. During peak periods, the whole corridor between Costco and the 208th Street Overpass is congested.

During last fall’s municipal election, promises were made to speed up the expansion of the 208th Street corridor. As it turns out, these promises will be costly.

If you travel along 208th Street, you’ll know that some sections of the corridor are fully expanded while other sections are not. Up to this point, developers have paid for the full cost of expanding the corridor. This is why 208th Street is only fully expanded next to new development projects.

The current plan will see 208th Street fully expanded as development projects along the 208th Street corridor are completed.

Map of anticipated time-frame of development along 208th Corridor. Select map to enlarge.

Knowing that the expansion of the 208th corridor was a long-term project, Council looked at making the 208th corridor part of TransLink’s Major Road Network several years ago. This would have entitled the Township to TransLink cash to cover not only half the cost of maintaining the corridor, but also cash to help speed up the expansion of the corridor.

If 208th Street was part of the Major Road Network, it would have also made the Township eligible for TransLink cash to expand the 208th Street Overpass. Currently, the Township of Langley is planning to pay for the full $12.6 million cost of expanding the overpass directly out of its own pocket.

Township residents in the area opposed making 208th Street part of the Major Road Network because they feared that 208th Street would become a trucking highway. Of course this wouldn’t be the case, but Township Council scrapped this plan due to public pressure; the Township rejected cash from TransLink!

As part of the development process, the Township requires proponents of development projects along 208th Street to dedicate land, for free, for the expansion of 208th Street. If the Township continues to build out 208th Street as development proceeds, it would cost about $29.7 million.

If Township Council decided to speed up the process, it would cost an additional $16.7 million as the Township would have to pay for the cost of land acquisition needed to expand the corridor.

While speeding up the expansion of the entire 208th Street corridor might seem like a good idea today, in the long term it will cost Township taxpayers more. While developers will eventually pay for most of the cost of expanding 208th Street through developer cost charges, the higher cost of speeding up the expansion will mean that there will be less developer money available to pay for things such as parks and community centres.

Rejecting TransLink cash and speeding up the expansion of the 208th Street corridor will end up costing Township taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Is that cost worth it?

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