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Surrey's road naming, numbering,
and address location


The Township System

The Township System is the basis of land survey in Western Canada. A Township is 6 miles by six miles (9.65 km X 9.65 km) and contains 36 sections. Each section is a mile square (1.609 kms), and is divided into quarter sections, each a half miles square (3.218 kms). Quarter sections could be preempted by early settlers and held if the land was improved. Sections 11 and 29 were set aside as school lands.


The Township Survey System

Land use in Surrey was based on the homestead survey system. The basis of this was the township; a block six miles by six miles containing 36 sections. Each section was one mile by one mile and contained 640 acres. Each section in turn was divided into quarter sections each containing 160 acres. It was the quarter section parcels that were available for Surrey Homesteaders to preempt. The land could be held as a homestead as long as it was improved. The lines dividing the sections became the grid pattern for Surrey's arterial road system.


The roads that developed within Surrey were given names by the local settlers. Some of the roads had several different names throughout their length. In the early days of settlement stretches of roads were incomplete, and as a new section was improved it usually took the name of the adjacent farmer or the person who did most of the work on the road. There was never any official naming of the roads in Surrey. The roads that were named locally were accepted and went onto maps and into records.


Numbering Surrey's Streets

Addresses by number

Until 1957 there was no efficient system of addresses in Surrey. In the closely-knit community of earlier years location was determined by the name of the property owner. With the completion of the Trans-Canada Highway and the removal of the tolls on the Patullo Bridge in 1952, the population of Surrey surged and the problem of location of properties for fire protection and mail delivery became paramount.

The problem was recognized as in 1948, Canada Post had urged Surrey Council to adopt an address system.


In 1957, the Municipality joined with the rest of British Columbia's municipalities in adopting a grid system of streets and addresses. After fire fighters, delivery personal, transit drivers and residents learned the new system they were able to determine location to a specific address.


Chart of Address location

The road grid pattern adopted is based on the land survey system. In it a mile is 1.609 km (5,280 feet), and contains 8 blocks, each 1061.9 metres (66 feet). Surrey has a road for every 1/8th of a mile. However, some roads do not coincide with the 1/8th of a mile and are designated A, B etc. The roads running due north and south are designated Streets while those running east and west are Avenues.


Fraser Valley numbering system

The numbers of the streets begin at zero (0) beside the Gulf of Georgia and increase as you go east. Avenues begin at zero (0) along the 49th parallel and increase as you go north. 120th Street marks the western boundary between Surrey and Delta. On the east side 196th Street is the Surrey and Langley boundary. Zero (0) Avenue, beside the 49th parallel, is Surrey's southern boundary and at the north end of Surrey, in a curve of the Fraser River, is a tiny stretch of road marked 117A Avenue.


There are still many road names as well as numbers in Surrey. All the diagonal and winding roads have names. Older communities where the road patterns did not fit the grid system retained their names, e.g. Crescent Beach, South Westminster, Bridgeview etc. Some development areas like Riverview in North Surrey, locally called Birdland has names like: Lark, Canary, Hawk, etc., on the winding roads; or there is the development west of Cloverdale known as Cowtown. Here you will find names such as Hereford, Holstein, and Jersey etc. In addition, parts of roads, especially hills, were identified by name; Woodwards, Shannon, Peterson, Enderby, Strawberry, Clayton, and Snake, to an old timer pinpointed immediately an exact location in the municipality. The names provided some of the character of the place.


As subdivision development occurs in blocks, more and more of these blocks have roads that often don't follow a regular pattern. A policy has been adopted giving names to those Streets and Avenues that don't follow the regular pattern or perhaps have no exit at one end.


Subdivision Road Names

Irregular patterns within the blocks of Streets and Avenues were given names that described their character. A culdesac became a "Place", winding roads became "Drives", roads which looped back upon them selves became "Loops", and "U" shaped roads became "Crescents".


Location Determination

Any location in Surrey can be determined by its address. An address such as: 1650 136th Street, indicates the location is near the intersection of 16th Avenue and 136th Street. For Streets, the first two numbers in the address indicate the intersecting Avenue. The second two numbers indicated the location in the block. The number 50 shows the location as half way up the block. The even number indicates it is on the right had side of the road as you look north. The rule for numbers on Streets is: looking in the direction the numbers increase (north), even is on the right, odd is on the left. The location above is Ray Shepherd Elementary School.


Location of Street Numbers

15289 88th Avenue indicates the location is near the intersection of 152nd Street and 88th Avenue. For Avenues, the first three numbers in the address indicated the intersecting Street. The last two numbers indicate the location in the block. The number 89 shows the location as 9/10ths of the way up the block. The odd number indicates it is on the left side of the road as you look east. The rule for numbers on Avenues is: looking in the direction the numbers increase (east), even is on the right, odd is on the left. The location above is Fleetwood Elementary School.


If the address has a name you can partially determine the location but you still must know the location of the road. 13055 Huntley Avenue is near the intersection of 130th Street and Huntley Avenue. The first three number of the address tells you the intersecting Street is 130th. Huntley Avenue must intersect 130th Street and the location is 1/2 of a block east of 130th . The odd last two numbers indicates it is located on the north side of the road. Odd is on the left as you face in the direction the numbers increase. The location above is Betty Huff Elementary School.



Next Page: Crossing the Fraser
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Copyright 2012 Surrey History by Jack Brown


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