Your Honourable Mayor and Council members,
I watched with great interest, the Council meeting on Monday evening as Mike Proudfoot of the Gateway program, explained the newest version of the South Fraser Perimeter Road. His explanation was somewhat vague, and misrepresents the actual impact it will have on North Delta. Perhaps I can shed some light on the details that council members were trying very hard to illicit from Mr. Proudfoot.
Firstly, the crayon drawing that gateway produced, as “the general alignment through the North Delta area”, showed a straight line from just west of the Alex Fraser Bridge, (numbered 1), and along the bank of the river to the existing South Fraser Way in Surrey. Mr. Proudfoot pointed out that “the first, more Westerly section of the alignment follows the existing River Rd.” He didn’t mention that… at that point, it is slated to swing southward in an ‘S’ curve to pick-up the alignment as it is planned along the North side of the Bog. (but that is another issue). He then goes on to say that “A new structure, a bridge, that would carry the South Fraser Perimeter Road over the existing BNSF rail lines and out to #5, that’s where the route would enter into the split grade section”. This ‘bridge’ is actually “twin parallel superstructures 382 m long”, with a “clearance of 7.16 meters”, (23.5 feet), over the existing rail, (their words not mine), that start west of the Alex Fraser Bridge and run out to the East side of Sunbury ravine, where it will start to tier into the bluffs. These superstructure viaducts will sit between 23 and 30 feet off the ground, blocking the views of the houses on the hillside, and being elevated, will allow noise pollution and diesel particulate to carry over most of Sunbury. The entire hillside of Sunbury would be devalued in air quality, livability, and property values.
Mr. Proudfoot then moves the discussion quickly over the split grade section, (without mentioning the ‘shed style roof’ that residents and council had specifically asked about), and out to Knudsen Rd. where they are entertaining the idea of running River Rd. along side the SFPR, to connect up with Grace Rd, despite residents asking for the connection to go only to Regal and old River Rd. (A connection to Grace Rd. would encourage trucks to use River Rd. as well, which goes against the wishes of area residents calling for a truck ban on River Rd.) The reality is a narrow amount of room between the BNSF tracks and the headland at Knudsen. The SFPR alone will require cutting into the embankment, on which sits the 1912 heritage house of Alfred Jenson, Manager of the Annieville Cannery.
The next slide was an artist rendition of the view from Knudsen area west towards the Alex Fraser that can be seen in the Gateway literature and on their website. Missing from their version, are the many houses that will be looking down upon the new highway from behind noise mitigation walls. Also shown on that slide was the split grade cross section that features a large green space between the Highway and the nearest houses. This erroneous piece of artistry would have you believe there is large distance between the highway and the nearest houses. Our conservative measurements put that distance between 25 and 30 meters, most of which is the house owner’s yard.
The tunnel option was the next topic, and Mr. Proudfoot reiterated the literature which states that “In light of community interest in a tunnel through North Delta, the Gateway program 'undertook detailed analysis', including 'a thorough evaluation' of community, operational and financial implications of a 4 km-long tunnel.”
Challenges and risks in emergency response situations were brought up. Tunnels have never been safer, with sprinkler systems, fire curtains, and automatic exhaust fans that can clean, direct and filter the air, sump systems that contain run-off, and control panels for first responders at emergency access and exit points.
Restrictions for some commercial carriers were noted. Our investigation found that less than 1% of the commercial traffic carries dangerous or restricted goods. Most of it is transported by rail. The rest can easily go around or be shipped by barge. We certainly don’t expect a project of this importance to be held up, or swayed by such a minor point.
Mr. Proudfoot states that the cost of a tunnel would be over three times the construction cost of the split grade option.
The Sunbury Neighbourhood Association had asked for a written cost comparison between Gateway’s highway along the bluffs and our tunnel proposal at the May 30th 2005 meeting, so that a ‘Triple bottom line assessment’ can be done by an independent source. Despite several meetings and promises to deliver, it was a year to the day that we received a one page document, (which is missing data), on an Annacis Island tunnel proposal, (one that all parties agreed was not feasible, last summer), a 5km tunnel proposal from Greg Hoover and Olaf Naas, and a 4 km tunnel of Gateway’s design. (To put this in perspective, you’d be looking at something in the range of 6 or 7 times shorter than the 24.5km Laerdal Highway tunnel in Norway).
This was followed up with a four page ‘memo’ that contained gems like, “The analysis concluded that a highway tunnel through North Delta as compared to the current SFPR alignment would have less impact on residential properties, heritage sites, riverfront green space, and visual affects for residents along river road and alternate modes of travel. The analysis also concluded that the SFPR surface route would provide better viewscapes for drivers over the river than the North Delta tunnel proposal”
While we won’t take the embarrassing step of asking someone to do a review of Gateway’s “detailed analysis and thorough cost comparison”, we find that Gateway’s estimates of tunnel costs are at the high end, but not that far off the mark. Our research on the internet and dialogue with tunnel building companies has given us an estimation of $100 million per kilometer for total tunnel costs excluding maintenance. Maintenance costs would be off-set by the protected health of our residents, our creeks, our river, and our wildlife. We do however take exception to the cost outline for the highway option that includes mitigation for environmental destruction that has yet to be determined and no compensation for properties that “will not be touched”.
As a result of their “thorough analysis”, they have determined that a split grade highway is the better solution for the North Delta section of the South Fraser Perimeter Road”, and we totally disagree! Our thorough analysis, (and it won’t take us a year to do it), will show that the destruction of irreplaceable wildlife habitat, the loss of North Delta heritage, and the eviction of our pioneer families, cannot possibly be compensated for, nor mitigated against.
The next slide we see, shows several alternatives for River Rd. At the west end another raised viaduct attached to the East bound superstructure for general traffic, a ground level emergency response and possibly transit roadway, or no way out.
North Delta residents do not want other areas to be able to use Sunbury as a cut-through, but a transit/emergency lane might be acceptable. At the other end, Gateway’s plans show a connection to old river rd, (mislabeled as Grace Rd.), but as covered previously, we will be sure to let them know that connection to the real Grace Rd. is not acceptable. With the tunnel plan this is not an issue.
The last part of the report was a short spiel on the cycling connections, which was not shown on a slide. This is likely because council might have asked why the cycling network plans, call for 3m wide lanes on either shoulder of the SFPR with no barrier between the cyclists and the motorists.
We would like to thank our councilors for their poignant questions to Mr. Proudfoot, and since he was unwilling or unable to provide straight answers, we will gladly provide you with the information that we have.
To answer Jeannie Kanakos, Scott Hamilton, and Robert Campbell, there can be no mitigation that can make up for the loss of hundreds of trees that clean our air, house over 150 species of birds and provide shade for the Fraser river foreshore salmon habitat. Beyond this, is the fact that only half a dozen of those trees are acceptable Bald Eagle habitat, and once they are removed, the nine Eagles that hunt and fledge their young here will not only have lost these potential nesting sites but won’t find similar habitat from Barnston Island to Deas slough. This unacceptable loss is highlighted by the fact that Gateway claims its highway costs are only $186.6 million which includes Environmental mitigation, (not listed as a line item of course, but covered under ‘other costs including contingencies $31,300,000’), even though the environmental assessments are not yet done. They clearly do not consider our wildlife habitat or our air quality as very important.
The subject of proximity to homes was addressed by Mr. Proudfoot as 30-50 meters. Well, unless all the homes on the North side of River Rd. between McAdam and the Cannery are expropriated, the distances will be a lot closer than that. By our estimation the 1915 Johnson residence will be between 22 and 25 meters, most of which is the back yard. The 1935 Nesbitt Residence will only be about 17 meters away.
These residences will be so close that they will wear the affects of the highway, but since studies show that diesel particulate is considered carcinogenic, and is measurably dangerous within 750 yards, the entire neighbourhood of Sunbury falls within that range, most specifically Brooke Elementary school, which is inside 350 meters, and the Brooke playground, which is inside of 250 meters. The resulting negative health affects on our residents and our children will severely reduce the livability of our area and severely increase the health costs of our municipality.
Councilor George Hawksworth brought up the question of a highway built on piles over the edge of the Fraser River. Mr. Proudfoot said he ‘will get back to you’. The simple answer, (and Mike Proudfoot should know this), is that the Fraser River foreshore is Red coded, and Yellow coded protected habitat. That is why a second rail and the highway are planned to cut into the embankment, inside the current rail bed. This, despite the fact that the trees and ravines along that section are Red listed and Blue listed riparian wildlife habitat, and the entire length of the bluffs is an Internationally renowned archaeology site. Any digging in this area requires, (by statute), an archaeologist on site and the careful sifting of all the material. Gateway’s highway costs don’t take that into consideration at all! As well, ‘Site capping’, (as is the plan for the Sunbury section), is acceptable only when it can be shown that deposits are not comprised by compaction, accelerated decomposition, horizontal displacement, or possible deleterious changes in soil chemistry, all of which would be impossible to prevent with pile driving supports in the ground for two viaducts.
We will dutifully attend the small group meetings and again rally the neighbourhoods to voice their concerns at the open houses, which most people feel are spurious and nefarious.
We will respond to Gateway’s “detailed analysis” and “thorough evaluation” and copy it to you.
In the mean time we would to thank Delta council for your support,
Sunbury Neighbourhood Association