Thursday, January 20, 2011

Freeways, Falcon, and History

First some history, back in the 1990's the NDP government of the day made the Trans-Canada highway a freeway between Victoria and Langford to reduce congestion as part of the massive Island Highway project. Of course the highway expansion lead to more congestion and is known locally as the Colwood Crawl. Imagine my surprise when I saw this quote from BC Liberal leadership hopeful Kevin Falcon, hero of the Gateway Highway Expansion program and SkyTrain, in yesterday's Times Colonist.

"The first thing we've got to do is sit down and figure out what is the best way to deal with the Colwood crawl — is E&N the best way to go, is light rail the best way to go?" said Falcon.

I was impressed the he was suggesting a.) an Interurban route or b.) a light rail line. Though he also mused about building a new overpass, it seems that politicians in the Capital region have already been burnt by the promise of congestion free highways.

"It must be coming up to 20 years or 15 years since the decision was made to do Helmcken and not McKenzie. But that in itself won't solve the crawl. That will just move traffic to Tillicum," Leonard said.

Speaking about the Gateway Program, the Port Mann/Highway 1 project reached a important milestone on January 11th. You can read the whole government press release, but I had to laugh a bit at the following quote:

“Once complete, travel times will be cut by as much as 30 per cent. For some, that saves almost an hour a day in travel. For the first time in over 20 years, we’ll see reliable transit service over the new Port Mann Bridge with a new RapidBus service. By 2031, this service will reduce greenhouse gases by 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes per year.”

I have to laugh because the province is still trying to sell the Gateway Program as being sustainable. It's not and the government's own report saying it's not. In fact, the government's own report say that it will increase greenhouse gases!

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy about the RapidBus service and it is even triggering mixed-use, transit-oriented development in Langley, but the Gateway Program as a whole has taken money away from building transit in the South of Fraser and that is sad because local governments (who look after the vast majority of the roads in the region) don't plan on building too many more roads to connect into the freeway. In Surrey, for example, the road network you see now it pretty much how it's going to be. We'll have no choice but to focus on sustainable modes of transportation because there will be no room for new roads in the region. It just too bad that we have to wait until after 2013 to build the transportation system that we really need in the South of Fraser.

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