BIG changes could be afoot for one of the most traffic snarled areas of the North Shore as the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the District of North Vancouver are looking at a redesign of roads and Highway 1 access in the Lower Lynn and Seymour areas.
The project includes extending Keith Road around the Seylynn development to Mount Seymour Parkway via Fern Street overpass, widening the Keith Road bridge to four lanes, upgrades and a new park-and-ride lot for Phibbs Exchange, and a possible reroute of the Dollarton Highway and Mountain Highway on- and off-ramps.
"This, to me, is a huge opportunity to deal with what has been the bane of transportation on the North Shore for practically
ever, which is when the (Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing) gets bottled up, everything backs up," said Coun. Roger Bassam, the district's liaison to the committee working on the plan.
"If we can get some independent east-west flow, the people who live in Seymour and Lynn Valley - essentially 75,000 people who live in North Vancouver - are going to benefit from this."
The new proposal replaces the long-talked about Seymour flyover. The ministry is aiming to present two potential new road configurations to the public this fall, which should resolve one of the major grievances the district faces as it plans for future densification, Bassam said.
"(It's) one of the biggest concerns people have about the modest growth that we are experiencing. Everyone thinks 'Oh my goodness, the traffic is bad right now, how can we possibly we have more growth?' "The reality is it's not the growth that's causing the traffic problems it's bad engineering. We have to fix a lot of our interchanges."
If the plan goes ahead it will likely kill the North Vancouver school board's plan to sell the mothballed Keith Lynn alternative secondary school. In March, the board named North Shore Studios as the preferred candidate to take over the property, which was last assessed at $7.25 million, but now, the land is at the crossroads of competing interests or, more literally, the off-ramp. Part of the plan includes the creation of a new exit from Highway 1 to Keith Road at Brooksbank Avenue.
North Shore Studios had pegged the Keith Lynn property for the potential future site of more sound stages, animation, visual effects, post-production, or video game production. But it would be a mistake to sell the land to private interests when it is still needed for public use, Bassam said, explaining the district's decision to lobby the province.
"We have been trying very hard to work with the school board on these issues. It hasn't been tremendously successful but we did directly approach the minister of transportation and some of the local MLAs and made them aware this is an important issue for the district and it might not be in everyone's interests to rush ahead with a land sale at this particular time," he said.
"It would not be in the taxpayers' interests to sell that piece of property to the private sector only to have to reacquire it either at a premium purchase or through expropriation."
The school board has been asking the province for a full rebuild of Argyle secondary, which has so far only received funding for a seismic upgrade. Without a buyer with cash in hand, it is not clear how the board will leverage the Keith Lynn property's value to fund a new Argyle "Obviously what we're
looking for is fair market value. Any moneys we can see from the sale of that property is basically to improve schools for students and the community," said board chairwoman Franci Stratton.
"We know that, in order to get a replacement for Argyle school, we will have to contribute funding, and that's where we have some valuable asset land that can provide that opportunity."
Ultimately, it will be the board's decision to make and any decision the school board makes will be made in the context of what is best for North Vancouver's students, Stratton added.
Bassam suggested the board and the province come to an agreement that would see some previous school board debts forgiven by the province in exchange for a portion of the land.
The project is expected to cost between $70 and $130 million over 10 to 15 years. But the province and federal government should be putting up two-thirds of the cost, leaving the district on the hook for the remainder, Bassam said.
"I don't think the (City of North Vancouver) will come to play on this one, although they'll be major beneficiaries, but that's the nature of the city," Bassam said.
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