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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for May 30th, 2007

The Tyee

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I know that regular readers of this blog will know of my affection for this publication.

They have now produced a video, which I originally got by email, and I urge my readers to look at it and send it along to those who may not yet have discovered this source of information.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 30, 2007 at 3:27 pm

Posted in alternative news, media

South Fraser Perimeter Road

with 18 comments

The Gateway proposed by the province has a number of projects. The South Fraser Perimeter Road is actually in the Regional Growth Strategy as a “New or Upgraded Goods Movement Connection”. For ease of identification I have highlighted the route in yellow on the map below, which is taken from the LRSP.

LRSP Regional Road and Highway System

The route follows the river from Highway 99 at Deas Tunnel around Burns Bog following the existing River Road through Annieville and into North Surrey. There Surrey has already built a new road from near the entrance to Surrey Fraser Docks alongside the BNSF railway to connect to Scott Road and thus the Patullo Bridge. Thereafter the route follows the CN main line around the Port Mann switching yard.

For a direct connection between Deltaport and Highway #1 most trucks follow a straighter, more southerly route (Highway #10), and indeed that is the signposted truck route. The SFPR is more of a distributor to all the various trucking, port and distribution facilities along the river. Since this line has been on the map since the early 90’s it is not hard for land speculators to pick up sites which are likely to be required for this road. Many would be cheap as they are either agricultural, or sites which are so degraded as to require significant remedial works for any other kind of development.

The communities along the route are not happy. Damien Gillis has produced a new video which documents the impact on North Delta.

Opposition is understandable from those immediately impacted, and is mostly about the lack of openness in a process to determine exactly which pieces of land will be expropriated, and who will get some kind of environmental protection such as sound fences and so on. More disturbing though is the lack of discussion on alternate routes, including one which could save a lot of disruption. Other groups are fundamentally opposed to the idea of yet more roads in the region, and take the view that the Gateway is a strategy which is itself seriously out of date and is only supported by some business interests.

It is hard to see how any road could be just used for goods movement. Inevitably in a congested urban region widening or “improving” existing roads, and building new links will generate more car traffic. There are a lot of trucks on River Road now and I am sure that the residents of Annieville and Sunbury would like to see them go elsewhere, as the road is not only narrow, it is steep and winding, producing a very unpleasant atmosphere in the village of noise and diesel exhaust. As with Eagleridge Bluffs a tunnel would have been preferred by the local community.

As I have written on this blog before, the problem starts with the “Ministry of Highways” – it has had all these plans to build roads sitting in its map chests and just wants to build as many of them as possible. There is never a careful consideration of how best to achieve the project’s aims and objectives, since inevitably that would call into question the lack of examination of alternatives, such as better traffic management, which in the case of every road scheme I have ever looked at professionally is always cheaper and more cost effective than new build. But in the case of the Gateway what is more worrying is that a small group of directly interested parties have first created and then imposed a growth strategy for the region that is not concerned with liveability but solely with moving more freight.

And in case there is some misunderstanding of what constitutes a “special interest” it is those who stand to benefit financially from a project. The Gateway clearly benefits the Ports and Airports. And those are no longer community facilities – they are commercial operations controlled by the industry and their close allies. The other people who clearly benefit are those who have knowledge of where the province is going to be buying up land. In some cases the province will expropriate existing occupiers. This is common (and in the US is known as “eminent domain”) but is based on an objective estimate of fair market value. What is of greater concern is when the province starts buying up land ahead of projects still awaiting formal approval and pays much more than current value, and the people who own that land seem to have acquired it fairly recently and do not appear to have any interest in developing or using the land in question.

Both these groups are pushing the Gateway at the federal and provincial level, and huge sums of taxpayers money are being spent. The politicians at both levels keep trumpeting the economic advantages of Vancouver getting a bigger share of the trade between North America and the Asian Pacific Rim. But what is missing is any evaluation of alternative economic strategies – for example the greater employment growth potential and lower cost of increasing import replacement – or the environmental cost to the ecosystem and the local community of huge increases in truck, ship, aircraft and railway movements, all of which produce both common air contaminants and greenhouse gas emissions in large quantities. Being concerned about such issues does not constitute a “special interest” since it is a common interest for society as whole. That is the difference between growing chorus of many groups who are seeking to question the Gateway, and those who seek to denigrate and silence them. Moreover, it is easy to label community groups as NIMBYs, but that simply avoids dealing with their very proper questions, which are not being answered.

The environmental assessment process is limited. It only looks at local, immediate impacts and can be satisfied by proposing mitigation measures. There is no process to determine if these measures are actually put in place, or if they are as effective as the proponent claims. But there is no environmental assessment of government policies or programmes. The government just does not do it, and does not pay any attention to those who do. The consequences are all around us. And it is noticeable that was was once the view of a small minority, is now becoming much more widely accepted – including by some very succesful businesses – by those who see that “business as usual” is no longer a viable long term option.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 30, 2007 at 12:59 pm