Maple Ridge News
Widening highway 5-7 years away
By Phil Melnychuk - Maple Ridge News
Published: October 21, 2008 6:00 PM
Evergreen will be SkyTrain
Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon came to the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows chamber of commerce luncheon Tuesday and delivered a new bridge for Mission.
The $16-million structure will be located a kilometre or two west of the Mission RCMP building, and replace the aging 1957 two-lane Silverdale Bridge next year.
Replacing the bridge will be part of the eventual four-laning of Lougheed Highway from Maple Ridge to Mission, a long-discussed project but one that is at least five to seven years away.
Given world events, "this is the time for exercising prudence," said Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Randy Hawes.
The only item on the menu for Maple Ridge was a commitment to preserve a rapid bus corridor along Lougheed Highway during any future improvements.
While Falcon championed the government's Gateway Program, one part of which is the Pitt River Bridge, he said the tolling of the Port Mann Bridge is worth it to motorists, if it eliminates waiting in traffic a few hours every day.
He said with a bus lane on the Port Mann, travel time from Langley to SkyTrain in Burnaby would take 23 minutes.
Falcon also pointed out the new Pitt River Bridge has been designed to accommodate a light rail transit line in the future.
"That's planning ahead. That's engineering ahead. That's making sure we're thinking about that bridge as we build it."
However, designing for LRT was only included following heavy lobbying by local mayors.
Falcon said the government's investment in transportation compares to the Social Credit spending on hydro dams in the 1960s, he said.
Past premiers have realized that, "For B.C. to be successful, we have to invest heavily in our transportation network because ... transportation is so fundamental to how we compete."
He noted other provinces have not invested in infrastructure as B.C. has. He cited the government's 25 per cent reduction of personal income taxes and the cut red tape campaign in which regulations have been reduced by 40 per cent for boosting the B.C. economy.
Falcon confirmed that SkyTrain technology, as chosen by the Ministry of Transportation this summer for the Evergreen Line, will remain the choice for the system.
TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast had said recently that SkyTrain may become harder to build as expansion heads out to the suburbs. Instead, light rail could be the choice.
But Falcon said studies were done that showed SkyTrain is the best choice for the Evergreen line.
He told chamber members earlier that all U.S. ports have seen a recent decline in trade with Asia, while B.C. ports have seen a seven-per-cent increase.
Mayor Gordy Robson had expected Falcon to announce upgrading of the Lougheed Highway throughout Maple Ridge. He brought with him the District of Maple Ridge's study from last year that proposes that a future light rail transit line run in the median of Lougheed Highway to the downtown.
Cost for that part of the section could be as high as $580 million.