Letter: Planned 216th overpass bad idea

The bridge from nowhere to nowhere is the 216th Street overpass over Highway One, writes Walnut Grove resident Peter Kravchuke.

Dear Editor,

For more than 30 years, the residents and businesses of Fort Langley have been mostly united in at least one thing: Let’s get those big transport trucks out of Fort Langley.

The answer has always been the same, from all levels of government: Great idea, but there’s no money for it.

This is a project which would apparently cost about $5 million.

Now we have the spectacle of two levels of government throwing theoretical piles of money at the Lower Mainland transportation infrastructure, but with no agreement between the parties as to how it is to be spent. Trudeau is offering $370 federal millions and Fassbender is offering $246 provincial millions to the local transportation pot.

But, again, there is no agreement as to what projects are to be funded, or how.

One of the zombie projects being resurrected (this idea just won’t die) is the bridge from nowhere to nowhere: the 216th Street overpass over Highway One.

(Yes, full disclosure: my wife and I live in a house that backs onto 216th Street. It’s a pretty quiet Walnut Grove road with little traffic and only a few farm trucks serving the local farms. It’s residential and has schools and farms along its length both north and south of Highway 1 – and not much else.)

Our neighborhood is being threatened with the same fate as the one Fort Langley is presently stuck with: bringing truck traffic into a very well-designed and peaceful neighborhood.

The Township of Langley planned and oversaw the building of Walnut Grove and did a great job of it – it’s a neighborhood people now love to live in.

So it’s a bit of a surprise that the Township now seems hellbent on throwing a 200th-Street style of interchange into the middle of this quiet residential neighborhood – with no commercial or industrial buffer zones of any kind.

It’s almost like somebody at the Township said: “Hey, here’s something we did right! Let’s destroy it!”

Over a quarter of a century ago, well before Justin Bieber became a thing, the 216th Street interchange was supposed to connect Highway 1 to the bridge going over to Maple Ridge. The road connecting the highway and the bridge was supposed to run somewhere between 216th and 217A Streets. This connecting route even had a name – it was to be called the Cottonwood Connector.

Today, the idea of that route has long been abandoned and the Golden Ears bridge has actually been built. The connecting route is between 200th and 201st Streets – well west of the original planned route.

But there are other transportation projects in Langley which are dying for funding.

The 208th Street overpass over Highway 1 has four lanes of traffic coming up to it (two lanes each way), on both sides of the overpass, but the overpass itself has only one lane going each way. Maybe it would be nice to build the other two lanes the overpass needs – especially now that the feds and province have money to burn, so that the Township doesn’t have to foot the entire bill– like we did last time with the first two lanes. After all, in the entire history of Highway 1, has any other municipal government done what we did and pay for the entire overpass without any provincial or federal money?

The Glover Road overpass over Highway 1 is too low. This may be because it was just built that way or because the road under it has been repaved so often that, over the years, this has raised the road level too high. It may have been built so low because the CN railway bridge to the east of it is even a bit lower.

In any case, the Glover Road overpass has been hit so often by transport trucks – and repaired – that there are now at least 10 huge, bright yellow signs warning overheight eastbound trucks not to hit the overpass, but to pull over in the pull-out area which was built in front of the overpass especially for these trucks.

So what happens to those trucks, you ask? Great question! According to one Township source, in the middle of the night, when nobody?s watching, they close off a lane of Highway 1 and back the trucks up Highway 1 to 200th Street to get the trucks off the highway and let them work their way around the Glover Road overpass to continue their journey east.

Now I realize that backing these trucks up to the mythical 216th Street overpass would seem like a great idea (because it wouldn’t be as far to back up), but here’s a radical idea: how about not backing the trucks up at all – and fixing the Glover Road overpass in the first place?

I spoke with the top Township of Langley transportation official about 10 years ago and he said that the 216th Street overpass was needed to access Trinity Western University. Anybody familiar with Trinity knows that it’s on Glover Road – which needs fixing anyway – not 216th Street. (In the Township’s favour, though, I am happy to hear that the Township has now spent over $10 million acquiring land across Glover Road from Trinity for a works yard, but I would urge the Township to consider an overpass and access roads from Highway 1 to Glover at the same time and on the same site.)

It seems that the federal government has no clue as to what local transportation priorities should be – even in the face of the poor access to the Fort Langley National Historic Site. It also seems that the provincial government has little or no regard for what the local government and people see as a priority.

So, once again, it falls to our Langley councillors and mayors to clue the other levels of government into the local conditions and priorities.

A brand new 216th Street interchange may well be needed in 20 or 30 years. But the twinning of the 208th Street overpass and the replacement and expansion of the Glover Road overpass is needed now.

And, by the way, if there’s any money left over, perhaps the transport trucks now going through Fort Langley can finally be moved to roads actually designed and built for them.

Peter Kravchuke, Walnut Grove

Langley Advance