River Road residents in limbo
By Ted Colley
About 150 North Delta residents angry at the lack of progress on the South Fraser Perimeter Road gave Ministry of Transportation staff a rough ride during an open house Monday night.
The fabled truck bypass route connecting Port Kells to Delta Port has been talked about by the provincial government for years, but it looks like it could be another six or seven years at least before the road is built.
In the meantime, residents along River Road are left to deal with the daily parade of thousands of heavy trucks along the narrow two-lane byway. They haul goods to and from the container port at Surrey Fraser Docks.
The expansion of that port and Delta Port means truck traffic will increase dramatically and the perimeter road is intended to move it off local roads. It will improve things on River Road, but the perimeter road will also have an impact on nearby residents.
About a dozen homes will likely be bought to make way for the road and their owners want to know if and when that will happen and how much money they'll get for those homes. Residents say they're left in limbo.
"I'm in my 60s now and I don't want to be forced out of my house when I'm in my 80s," said Larry Reid, who has lived at 10363 River Rd. for 35 years.
"We've been waiting and waiting for answers and people don't know if they should re-roof their homes, that kind of thing. Just let us get on with our lives."
Unfortunately, ministry staff had few solid answers. River Road resident Dale Laurent summed up the feeling in the crowd with a single comment.
"Just do it or leave us alone," Laurent told project staff at Sunbury Hall, drawing cheers and applause from his fellow residents.
The South Fraser Perimeter Road is part of the province's Gateway program, which also includes a similar bypass route on the north side of the Fraser River and twinning the Port Mann Bridge. The total cost of the program is estimated at $800 million.
Victoria wants the federal government to kick in half the cost, but so far Ottawa has not made a funding commitment.
Frustrated residents were in no mood for excuses, however, as Delta North Liberal MLA Reni Masi discovered as he took the floor to defend the project.
Masi said the province has set aside $330 million for the Gateway program and expressed optimism the project would go ahead.
Laurent asked Masi if the road couldn't be built in sections as funding becomes available.
"I honestly can't answer that," Masi replied.
"Well, sit down if you can't answer it," a man in the audience shouted.
As audience members laughed at the jibe, Masi left the podium.
"Does that make you feel better? Do you feel better now?" Masi asked the heckler as he walked to his seat.
Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said yesterday getting the perimeter road to the construction stage is a long process because of extensive public consultation and the need for exhaustive environmental studies.
Falcon said he believes it will be at least a year before there's a funding commitment from Ottawa, but said he's confident the money will come.
"The Delta Port expansion will have huge benefits for Canada and the federal government has an obligation to participate.
"I've always made it clear that in order for that expansion to go ahead, we must have the South Fraser Perimeter Road."
posted on 03/02/2005