Taking trucks off of First Avenue by turning N. Railway Avenue into a two-way street is currently part of the district's plan to revitalize downtown.

Taking trucks off of First Avenue by turning N. Railway Avenue into a two-way street is currently part of the district's plan to revitalize downtown.

Candidates split on relocating Lougheed Highway

Move is part of district's 10 Big Moves plan for downtown revitalization

Relocating the Lougheed Highway in downtown Mission is considered by the district to be one of the top priorities in its plan to revitalize downtown.

It is listed as number one on the list of 10 Big Moves, which was adopted by council in 2013.

According to figures on the district’s website, the price tag for the project is estimated at $5.6 million. The cost will be shared by the province and the district will not need to borrow to make this happen as there are enough in its reserves.

About 100 curb side parking spaces will be lost, but in the short term, the district will encourage

Represented from the Downtown Business Association were not available for comment, but has in the past, supported the plan.

Bob Mackovic, who owns Gold Bin on First Avenue, said slowing down traffic will help the community reclaim downtown.

“The traffic situation has to be changed for any substantial revitalization,” explained Mackovic. “Let’s get this done, then look at other steps.”

However, not all business owners feel the change will benefit them.

“It will hurt my business,” said Adriana Knox, who owns Dogwood Bakery and Deli on N. Railway Avenue.

Delivery trucks for business on N. Railway will be inconvenienced, and the traffic on the street is already “very dangerous,” she explained. “When people come off the West Coast Express, cars are parked all over the place … I’d hate to see (the highway relocation). It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Candidates running for mayor and council are also split on the issue when asked whether or not they support the move.

Mayoral candidate Wendy Bales said she supports moving the highway off of First Avenue, but doesn’t support the current plan.

“In the current plan, many parking spaces would be removed,” said Bales. “That would affect businesses downtown if customers end up going to malls for better parking.”

Tony Luck, who is also running for the top seat, said it’s important to get the trucks off of First Avenue, but more dialogue needs to take place with the community before a decision is made on moving the road. He also suggested engaging the federal government to share the costs related to any highway relocation.

“I am completely opposed to this project as I struggle to find any upside and can see a huge downside,” said Randy Hawes, who is also running for mayor. “If trucks on First Avenue keep shoppers away, then putting all trucks on Railway, single lane two ways, will absolutely bankrupt most businesses on Railway.”

Hawes also noted back ups will occur and that two-way traffic on the street was not successful in the past.

“That is precisely why the council of the day petitioned the government in 1976 to move to the configuration we have today.”

Council candidate Danny Plecas said the decision was “made in haste” and there are many traffic safety concerns that are still unanswered.

“If the ministry is going to pour money into the Murray Street overpass (seismic upgrade), why not replace it with a new overpass that is aligned with a new bypass?”

Pam Alexis, who is also running for council, said she would like to look at a larger plan for the bypass and weigh the costs against the realignment project.

“I would hate to have new infrastructure taken out at a later date if it needed to be changed to satisfy the larger bypass plan,” said Alexis. “The decision requires more information that has not been shared to date …”

Incumbent Jenny Stevens said she would prefer to look for another less costly  solution.

“I do want trucks off First Avenue. Without achieving that, the whole downtown revitalization plan is at risk,” said Stevens.

Incumbent mayor Ted Adlem said the move is “essential to a true redevelopment of our downtown.”

The move was recommended by the public consultation process and needs to be supported, he added.

“Doing this will move the heavy truck traffic and those passing through town onto an efficient direct route,” said Coun. Dave Hensman, who is running for re-election. “It will then open First Avenue as a shopping destination with wider sidewalks, outdoor cafe spaces, trees, and green spaces.”

“Downtown is the only shipping location that can add a social element. The highway restructuring will be the start of that,” said council candidate Rhett Nicholson. “There will still be a few issues we will need to hammer out, but overall this will open up main street as a venue for the municipality.”