South Fraser Perimeter Road opening to traffic despite opposition
Opponents of highway expansion have little to cheer about as vehicles are about to start using a new stretch of a major road project that runs along the Fraser River’s south side.
A 10-kilometre-long section of the South Fraser Perimeter Road through north Surrey is set to open to traffic on Saturday (December 1), the B.C. government has announced.
The route, which will be given the name Highway 17, runs from Highway 1 at 176th Street to 136th Street.
It is an eastern section of the South Fraser Perimeter Road project, a roughly 40-kilometre-long, four-lane highway which will eventually stretch from the Port Kells area to southwest Delta. The opening of the new section is coming on the same day as the new Port Mann Bridge opens to eight lanes of traffic.
With a $1.26-billion price tag, the South Fraser Perimeter Road is intended to improve the road system in the region by making it easier for truckers, commuters, and tourists to travel to key destinations like the ferry terminal and the U.S. border. The project is part of the province’s Gateway Program, a plan to improve the flow of commercial and commuter traffic throughout the region.
Activists from across Metro Vancouver have waged a campaign against the project, citing concerns about the potential impact the new highway will have on the climate, neighbourhoods, heritage sites, and agricultural land.
Eric Doherty, a Vancouver activist who opposes the project, said he is disappointed to see the route opening to traffic.
“The opposition to that project, I would say it failed because it was divided. There wasn’t a unified voice opposing the freeway,” Doherty told the Straight by phone today (November 30).
“I would say that the lesson is, if you want to stop one of these projects, you have to be united in wanting to actually stop it,” he said.
However, he said he feels good about the success of related efforts to oppose the North Fraser Perimeter Road and construction of a larger replacement for the Pattullo Bridge.
Doherty also criticized the provincial government for funding projects like the South Fraser Perimeter Road while not providing enough support for public transit.
“We’ve got a situation where we’re opening this whole network of mega-freeways and cutting back on transit service. It just shows the priority of the government. They’re acting to help big oil sell their product, rather than acting to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and help people get around in a way that they can afford.”
The provincial transportation ministry could not be immediately reached for comment. However, B.C. transportation and infrastructure minister Mary Polak touted the benefits of the project in a statement released today.
"The South Fraser Perimeter Road will help meet the transportation needs of our growing communities and expanding markets by providing a four-lane expressway for commercial, commuter and tourism traffic," Polak said.
"This new road is a huge benefit to families as it will pull commercial traffic away from community roads, easing congestion and improving travel time and safety," the minister said.
While a section of the route is about to open to traffic, Imtiaz Popat, a Surrey activist who has also protested against the highway project, remained defiant. He is hopeful the rest of the road project can be halted and that completed sections of the route could be converted from being used as a highway. The section of the highway from 136th Street in Surrey to Deltaport Way in Delta is scheduled to open in December 2013.
“Just because this part of the perimeter road is opening up doesn’t mean it’s going to get finished,” Popat told the Straight by phone.
“Come the provincial election, we are definitely going to put the pressure on the different parties to review this and to take another look at whether this project makes any sense or [is] feasible and see if there are other alternatives,” he said.
Popat said he hopes that if the New Democrats form government after the May provincial election they will review the project.
However, the NDP transportation critic has discouraged the possibility his party would take such action.
Surrey MLA Harry Bains said his party supports the project overall. He said the route is needed to help trucks travel to and from the Deltaport container terminal while freeing up side streets for other vehicles.
“I think there’s a lot invested in that project already. I don’t think there’s any turning back,” Bains told the Straight by phone.
Nov 30, 2012 at 2:23pm
You also have to propose alternatives that people can get excited about. A regional rail network for example.
Nov 30, 2012 at 7:26pm
Yes, lets move the containers from the port on public transit. Also all the commercial deliveries to the Tillbury park area should load the pallets onto the bus as well.
Nov 30, 2012 at 10:08pm
Funny how the article is all about the opposition to the road, yet the voting shows a substantial amount of support for this road. So no, Eric Doherty, the naysayers didn't fail because the opposition was divided, it failed because the public wanted this road. So my question is why is the straight always against progress - Always?
Dec 1, 2012 at 12:21pm
I bet Eric Doherty lives downtown and seldom travels outside his comfort zone. I bet Eric Doherty has never driven a heavy truck loaded with consumables down a ridiculously overcrowded and ill designed street. I bet Eric Doherty has never had to worry about his children being crushed by a heavy truck that had to use local roads because selfish "protesters" oppose a sensible highway. I bet Eric Doherty doesn't have a clue!!
Dec 1, 2012 at 7:52pm
I completely agree that there has to be exciting transit alternatives. The same with promoting alternatives for efficient and safer goods movement on rail and the river. I think it is also essential to keep the focus on the climate crisis and how essential it is to quickly reduce tar sands oil consumption.
But the main thing is prioritizing funding for transit, which is what www.GetOnBoardBC.ca is about. Freeways are controversial, transit is as popular as mom and apple pie.
Dec 2, 2012 at 1:02pm
Only about 5% of Metro Vancouver traffic is commercial trucks. There was already plenty of road capacity for goods movement if we give all the single occupany light vehicle drivers alternatives like good public transit.
A May 2009 public opinion poll conducted by Synovate found that 69% of Metro Vancouver residents support redirecting money from freeway expansion to public transit.
Dec 2, 2012 at 9:18pm
Rob, I was referring to the voting as listed on the straight's web site. Just because there is opposition doesn't mean everyone is against a project. People in this area are so against any progress, it's surprising anything ever gets built. Just because it doesn't benefit you or Eric Doherty doesn't mean it isn't a good idea. Ask any truck driver, then get back to me. Stop being so selfish and think of the greater good every once in a while.
Dec 2, 2012 at 10:23pm
Opening up this portion of freeway now will far from free up traffic from our communities. It ends up into small two lane road leading to King George and then on to the Patullo Bridge. This will cause more congestion for the neighbourhoods near the bridge and worsen the traffic problem once the people start taking this route to avoid paying the toll on the new Port Mann.
Dec 2, 2012 at 10:32pm
Short Sea Shipping with barges and rail are excellent alternatives for moving goods compared to container trucks.
I tend to agree with Imtiaz that the road is not finished yet so there is still a chance that some of it may be stopped. There is also an even better chance, if the project is completed, that in a few decades, we will come to our senses and de-pave the project to reclaim our waterfront, which is what has happened in many places much more progressive than this pavement politics province.
To Cuz: how sensible is it to put this highway through communities and half a block from a school? That is what they did to our neighbourhoods of Bridgeview, Sunbury, Fraser Heights, Bolivar Heights - etc. Now we have to worry about our children and animals being crushed by trucks barrelling by at 80kmph or getting sick from the diesel particulate in the air.
It's all good for business though the provincial government says in the environmental assessment that the increased health problems are actually an economic benefit as they will create more jobs in the health care industry. Of course there is no money to fund those jobs - it has all been spent - billions on paving over paradise, destroying homes, ruining eco-systems and paving our communities.
Eric Doherty by the way is a transportation expert who devised a system for putting buses back on the Port Mann with out spending billions. Too bad the government did not listen to him or to Rail to the Valley that has a plan for a electric Inter urban rail on existing tracks that would have cost a fraction of what the bridge and highway expansion project did.
Dec 3, 2012 at 3:11am
If it weren't so sad to read the mindset delivered in the comments that deride critical analysis of the SFPR, these comments that equate road building to accomodate container shipping, as 'progress', would be laughable. Progress may have many interpretations, one is a state where something is refined or improved, emparting benefits, not injury. Greater good means exactly that, good, not contributing to the catastrophic compromise of earth systems(Burns Bog, Surrey Bend) and healthy human life (Bridgeview Community) for the express profitablility of a few. Talk about selfish! You want a sensible Highway Cuz? There is nothing sensible about putting containers on trucks to drive a road that winds along a river, also accompanied by rail systems. Hello! that is just plain stupid! Ours is not the only life on earth and ours is not the only span of time to consider. We are pushing the boundaries of livability to allow irreversable destruction of habitat for the sole purpose of semi trailer trucking! As you suggest, bowser, think of someone other than your self and practice sustainability in life, so that we do not short change future planet earth inhabitants. The SFPR is a forced solution that is a boon for the trucking industry at the expense of all else. Lazy minded complacency allows this to occur, not the thoughtful advocacy of truly progressive solutions. Stagnant, regresive dithering, as popular as it may be amongst the tragically ingnorant, is also a disgusting abuse of our resources, including the resource known as our BRAIN. When the inventions and devices that are less impacting are overlooked. So give your head a shake. Truckers are not the victems in this dicussion. They are agents on a bad mission that can put their services to better use elsewhere! Continuing to use methods of transport known to be destructive is not progressive, refined or improved. So please enlighten us with the generality used to describe building the road by the river as progressive. Exactly! There is no upside and as for the container loads of cheap CRAP that are being foisted upon us in mass quantity. Buy less, buy local, make use of what you have more efficiently and improve the local economy with local trade and get wise on susatinable economic choices instead of buying into useless notions fed to you from the very very rich, one of whom I suspect form your lame aptitude you are not.