Traffic commotion up ahead
PLAN FAULTY: Perimeter road will be disaster for neighbourhoods, but bureaucrats blocking solution
Brian Lewis, The Province
Published: Sunday, October 22, 2006
If the B.C. government had its way, the $800-million South Fraser Perimeter Road's dirty little secret would likely never see the light of day or, at the very least, it wouldn't capture widespread public attention.
No, the politicians and bureaucrats behind the SFPR, which is part of the $1.3-billion Gateway transportation project, would prefer you knew as little as possible about the fact that, if this truck freeway linking Deltaport to Highway 1 is built, 200 or more homeowners along the route in North Delta and Surrey will have their properties expropriated.
This means they'll have no choice but to sell and move -- hopefully at market value, but there's no guarantee.
Some have spent their entire lives living along the bluff overlooking the Fraser River in long-established heritage communities such as Sunbury, Annieville, Royal Heights and Bridgeview.
Surrey's first European settler, James Kennedy, built his farm in this area in 1859. It's also the ancestral home of the Burr family, whose New Westminster-born son, the late Raymond Burr, went onto fame and fortune in Hollywood.
And for the many hundreds of others whose homes are close to the proposed four-lane divided highway's route, property values will likely take a major hit -- to say nothing of the impact on neighbourhood livability.
Nor do the politicians and faceless bureaucrats behind this initiative want you to know that they've rejected, hands down, a viable alternative to their ground-level divided freeway that will dissect these picturesque residential neighbourhoods that are interspersed with ravines and areas of wildlife habitat, including supposedly protected salmon streams.
The homeowners who have been fighting to keep their neighbourhoods intact enlisted engineering expertise, then proposed that a four-kilometre tunnel for the highway be built.
This is technically feasible and, in some ways, preferable because the current SFPR routing requires cutting deeply into the unstable bank overlooking the river. A tunnel would also offer the estimated 5,000 trucks using the road daily a straighter and more level routing.
"Tunnelling is the best way to go to protect our neighbourhoods and land values, but Gateway has written it off completely," says Don Hunt, president of the Sunbury Neighbourhood Association.
Nor does he buy Gateway's explanation that tunnelling costs more than the current plan. Hunt says Gateway bureaucrats purposely inflated their tunnelling costs to $400 million to $500 million, compared to $187 million for the same stretch of road at ground level.
"They didn't include costs of expropriation and the lost value for homeowners who won't be compensated," Hunt says. "I think there's an overall net benefit to a tunnel."
He makes an excellent point.
Hopefully, other good points will be raised. The formal public comment period on the SFPR's environmental assessment certificate application opened last week and runs until Dec. 17. A series of open houses are also being held. The schedule is on the Web at www.gatewayprogram.bc.ca or www.eao.gov.bc.ca.
As I see it, the issue here isn't whether or not we need new roads to serve port and population expansions -- we certainly do -- but how the expansion will be done.
To date, Victoria has been handling this file like a bull in a china shop.
© The Vancouver Province 2006