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Brentwood resident holds city to historic traffic plan

Longtime Brentlawn Drive resident Terry MacDonald says his neighbourhood is plagued with rat-running traffic. The source of the problem, he says, is that Burnaby city hall has not fulfilled its commitment, made in the 1970s, to separate the traffic of nearby apartment buildings from the single-family neighbourhood to the north. It
Longtime Brentlawn Drive resident Terry MacDonald says his neighbourhood is plagued with rat-running traffic. The source of the problem, he says, is that Burnaby city hall has not fulfilled its commitment, made in the 1970s, to separate the traffic of nearby apartment buildings from the single-family neighbourhood to the north. It's taken on greater urgency with redevelopment of Brentwood mall on the horizon.
— image credit: Wanda Chow/NewsLeader

Brentwood resident Terry MacDonald was at a meeting of Burnaby's traffic safety committee listening to a neighbour speak about the traffic issues plaguing their area when he had a sudden realization.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

MacDonald spoke up, telling the committee that Burnaby city hall had once made a commitment to physically separate traffic from new high-density apartment buildings from that of the single-family neighbourhood to the north.

When city staff told him days later that he'd have to show evidence of that, he set to work.

The 73-year-old MacDonald has lived on Brentlawn Drive since 1969. He was one of three men involved four decades ago with city hall in the traffic planning process for the area's community plan. But as of last month, he is the only one still with us.

He spent hours of poring over documents on paper and microfiche at Burnaby's city archives and libraries. And now he has what he says is documented proof of his assertion to go along with his memory of what took place.

The commitment was made on a number of occasions over three years in the mid to late 1970s, MacDonald said.

On Monday, he told council of his findings which dated back to 1969. That's when a community plan for the area around Brentwood mall was first started.

High-density development was planned for the Brentwood area even then. To mitigate potential traffic issues, proposals included a frontage road parallel to Lougheed Highway from Bellwood to Beta avenues. The idea was to give apartment residents access to their parking lots while lessening congestion on Lougheed.

That frontage road was built, but only as far west as Delta Avenue. And while little happened for over a decade, the 1996 Brentwood Town Centre Development Plan threw a wrench into the works, he said.

The traffic system plan was changed to not extend the frontage road to Beta. And in 2008, Beta was opened providing access to both Lougheed and the residential streets to the north.

He said that also went against the original plans and was done without notifying the Brentwood Ratepayers Association.

It has also created a chaotic mess at rush hour, MacDonald said in an interview. Vehicles are trying to get into the condo developments to the east, into Brentwood mall to the west, rat-running north and south,  and pedestrians are forced to dodge in between.

He expects things to only get worse when the Brentwood mall site is redeveloped to accommodate thousands of new residents.

He asked council to fulfill the city's original commitment to separate the traffic systems for existing and future apartment complexes from their single-family area. Changes need to be made to which streets are designated as "collector" routes to take more traffic, he said. And the streets in the single-family area need to be restricted to residential parking only.

MacDonald said that if Burnaby city hall announced at a past public meeting that it was no longer going to honour the commitment it made, and it provided written notice to the residents' association, he wants to see proof.

"Nothing less than that will convince me that they're off the hook, so to speak."

As he's not a traffic engineer, he doesn't know exactly what form the changes should take to separate the traffic systems. And he doesn't particularly care.

"You can dig up the street, you can put up blockades, you can redirect traffic … It didn't matter how they accomplished that."

But something has to be done the reduce the "cars rat-running through our neighbourhood morning, day and night," he said.

"Every residential street in the Brentwood community is suffering the effects of a less than adequate traffic system and it has to change."

Council asked city staff to look into MacDonald's claims and report back. City planning director Lou Pelletier estimated a response could be ready before summer.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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