By Monique Tamminga Black Press
Mar 24 2006
The sparse crowd of environmental groups and activists who gathered in Fort Langley’s heritage hall on Wednesday morning should have met in Delta.
What was supposed to be a press conference outlining South Fraser activists’ concerns with the provincial government’s Gateway Program turned into a collection of Delta conservation societies opposing the port expansion at Roberts Bank.
The South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) proposed in the Gateway Program also concerned most who spoke.
The speakers said the road will butt up against Burns Bog and dozens of houses, forcing the removal of more than 45 heritage homes and paving over acres of farmland.
Greg Hoover, who created http://www.thereisanotherway.com , has proposed a secondary route just for trucks that wouldn’t impact Burns Bog, or take away heritage homes in Delta. “When Gateway first started they loved our ideas, when Judith Reid [then Transportation Minister] was there. Now, they are yet to respond,” said Hoover.
Mary Taitt of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee said the SFPR is a “gateway to oblivion.” “There has to be a more holistic way to move goods and people. This road will add to a loss of habitat and more loss of habitat to migrating birds [in Burns Bog],” said Taitt.
The Burns Bog Conservation Society was also at the meeting to say the SFPR comes so close to the bog that the dust and spray from vehicles will have an impact on animals, as will the disruption from the constant traffic.
Fort Langley resident and Fraser Valley Conservation Coalition member Donna Passmore believes Gateway will hurt tourism and future generations.
“Gateway is said to be a $3.5-billion project, taxpayers will likely be looking at $5 to $7 billion. Look at the economic burden we are putting our children,” said Passmore. “We average 28 smog episodes per summer in the Fraser Valley.”
Cathleen Vecchiato, of the Langley Conservation Network, warned that the Gateway project will turn the Lower Mainland into L.A.
“I moved here from San Francisco which is geographically similar to B.C., with bridges and tunnels. Eventually, they built rapid transit there, and by the second stop, that train is full. If we offered SkyTrain we would use it,” she said of expanding rapid transit through the Valley.
Smart Growth representative and community planner Tom Lancaster opposes the Gateway program because it will further urban sprawl.
“You can’t alleviate congestion by building more road space. Those roads will just fill with more cars,” he said.
The Gateway Program includes three components: the proposed Port Mann twinning and Highway 1 widening from Vancouver to Langley; the North Fraser Perimeter Road project, a continuous route from New Westminster to Maple Ridge, including a new Pitt River Bridge; and the South Perimeter Road Project, a new four-lane, 80 km/h route along the south side of the Fraser River from Deltaport Way to the Golden Ears Bridge.
Livable Region Coalition Langley representative Nathan Patchal urges Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon to factor transit south of the Fraser into the Gateway equation.
“People of the South Fraser have had it with congestion, we need transit now,” he said. “When the Alex Fraser Bridge was built it didn’t relieve traffic. Why would they think Port Mann twinning would do anything different?”
Lancaster blasted the provincial government for its lack of prior consultation with the public on the Gateway Program. A series of public open houses are currently being held.
“The public consultation is unconscionable,” Lancaster said.
A woman representing students from Kwantlen University College campuses said there is no vision to improve transit to any of the campuses. Students are taking their cars for lack of access.
The Surrey Environmental Partners is calling for an independent study showing if in fact congestion would be relieved by the twinning.
When asked if the efforts of these groups may be too late, Lynn Perrin of the NDP standing committee on agriculture said the fight is just beginning.
“We are here representing thousands of people. I’m from Abbotsford where a community’s opposition stopped SE2, so we know that people can make a difference,” she said.
Ground- breaking for most projects isn’t planned until 2008, so this fight has just begun, said Passmore.