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New sign triggers complaints

A new digital billboard near the Queensborough Bridge has drawn the wrath of some motorists and prompted a review to see if mitigation is required.

A new digital billboard near the Queensborough Bridge has drawn the wrath of some motorists and prompted a review to see if mitigation is required.

Last year, the City of New Westminster approved the installation of four new digital billboards at Highway 91A at the Queensborough Bridge, Highway 91 at the approach to the Alex Fraser Bridge, on Brunette Avenue at the Highway 1 East on-ramp and on McBride Boulevard at the south end of the Pattullo Bridge. The city has received a couple of complaints about the sign that was recently completed near the Queensborough Bridge.

"I call it a big Jumbotron TV. I try not to look because it's a distraction," truck driver Atti Torok told The Province newspaper. "You watch. The first thing there will be an accident and they'll say they were looking at the sign and weren't paying attention. They're asking for trouble."

The City of New Westminster has signed a 20-year agreement with All Vision Canada, which will pay all costs associated with building, maintaining and marketing the digital signs. The city expects the signs to generate between $1 million and $1.6 million annually for the city.

Roger Emanuels, the city's manager of design and construction, said he's had two calls from people complaining about the signs.

"They are saying they are bright and they are distracting," he said. "We are working with All Vision. They are going to do some night monitoring."

Emanuels said the city and All Vision would be looking at lighting levels to see if an adjustment is needed to reduce lighting on the Queensborough sign.

"It's built into it," he said about lighting-adjustment mechanisms. "We want to make sure it is working properly."

According to Emanuels, the signs have 256 dimming levels so adjustments can be made if necessary. The signs are designed to dim or brighten, depending on the conditions.

"We would be looking at mitigation before we'd be looking at any kind of removal," he said. "There are dimming and operating issues you can put into place. There are different things you can do."

Emanuels said the response to the digital signs has been "typical" of comments heard in other communities where similar signs were installed.

"Every time they go up, same kind of comments," he said. "We take them seriously."

Emanuels suspects part of the issue is the signs are new and went up quite quickly.

While lighting has been one of the concerns raised, callers to city hall have also voiced concerns about the location of the Queensborough sign.

"I think they talk to both," Emanuels said. "They say it is bright, it is close to the road."

Emanuels said the city worked "very carefully on the placement" of the signs with transportation safety engineers to ensure they were located in appropriate locations. Considerations included placement on straight stretches of road, in areas where motorists aren't making a lot of lane changes and merging, and roadways that are used by commuters who use the same route every day.

Three of the four signs are operational, with the sign at Braid and Brunette being completed this week.

Emanuels said both complaints he's fielded have been about the sign near the Queensborough Bridge. He added it is the same brightness as the sign near the Pattullo Bridge.

"It may seem different because it is coming out of nowhere. It may require us to run it lower," he said.

Emanuels said the signs can be hard to read if the lighting is too dull and could be a distraction if it's too bright.

"We have to find that sweet spot," he said.

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