Creative Crossings: Improving 16th Avenue for Walking, Biking and Rolling

Creative Crossings Team Picture

Adi Henegar, Bahati Msakamali, Jasmine Ma, Jeremy Karkanis, Leah Grundison and Veer Joshi

The Challenge

There’s a busy area of West 16th Avenue between Wesbrook Mall and Blanca Street where drivers frequently exceed the posted speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour and there are no protected crossings for pedestrians and cyclists. UBC SEEDS asked us to come up with a design that provided a safe, accessible, and grade-separated crossing; offered an efficient water management system; improved cyclist safety; and minimized tree removal.


Our inspiration

We did a lot of research on best practices used elsewhere. We spent some time at the site observing how people – including children attending Norma Rose Point Elementary School – used the crossing. There were some obvious safety issues: the current design is an at-grade crossing with a pedestrian-controlled flashing beacon, but pedestrians can’t actually see if the light is working from where they stand to activate the button. They also have to activate the flashing light again once they’ve reached the median, which isn’t intuitive.

Our design process

It’s been very iterative and we’ve made changes to our design along the way as new information or ideas came along.

In the first term, we began with developing three conceptual designs. We evaluated these designs against a weighted decision matrix that enabled us to identify the solution that best met all the project criteria. In the second term, we moved to the detailed design phase to develop our concept even further. Throughout the process we attended review meetings with the client to get feedback on our process.

Our proposed solution

Our road design includes an elevated bridge that spans 184 metres, with one lane in each direction for vehicles. Our bridge structure consists of a composite reinforced concrete over steel deck, structural steel frame, 16 reinforced concrete footings and two reinforced concrete abutments. Stepped precast reinforced concrete retaining walls support the excavated areas. On the water management design side, we generated a digital elevation model based on an analysis of site hydrology to understand overland storm flow routes. We then designed a catchment basin and distribution pipeline to collect runoff from impervious surface and designed an infiltrating swale to discharge collected stormwater into the ground.

New Intersection Elements

Our project also included a four-phase construction plan stretching over three-and-a-half months, which incorporated a traffic management plan for the construction period and the identification of risks and their proposed mitigations. We went beyond the initial project scope to incorporate Indigenous artwork and suggest enhanced landscaping and the use of permeable pavement. Although we were not given a defined budget for this project, our estimation of costs, including contingency, is that it would cost $10.2 million to complete the work.

What excited us most

"SEEDS is hoping that our work might show proof of concept and could perhaps be integrated into a new approach to the site."

We had a lot of freedom to come up with a design solution, not least because there were no budget constraints. That meant we could explore the best design solutions for the site. It was also meaningful to work on a design for an area near campus that we are very familiar with and to come up with ideas to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists crossing this particular roadway. In one of our initial client meetings we learned that this intersection has been a problem for some time and that the university has spoken to the Ministry of Transportation about strategies to make it safer. It would be exciting if our work could have a positive impact on safety in this area.

What we learned

It was fascinating to see how the design progressed from term one to term two and how we each contributed expertise in different areas. It was also interesting to be applying knowledge we’d acquired over the course of our degree. For example, one of the first things we learned in first year was how to use a weighted decision matrix to select the optimum solution for a project. This project also introduced us to codes that we weren’t as familiar with – while we’ve worked a lot with the building code, the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code was relatively new.


Our project’s future

Our understanding is that our client, UBC SEEDS, might share our work with a broader group of stakeholders to try and influence them to take action and improve this particular area by providing a safe crossing point for pedestrians and cyclists.

Two students standing in an outdoor stairwell observing the project site.

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