A Liveable Region Coalition Initiative
Frequently Asked Questions about the #1 Highway Expansion between Langley and Vancouver
There will be provincial consultations. Why not bring
up concerns then?
So far there have been no public consultations planned. And Transportation
Minister Kevin Falcon has made it clear that he has no intention of asking
Lower Mainland residents if they want the highway expansion. Making reference
to a 7 February 2005 speech by Falcon, Langley’s AdvanceNews explains
his position: “Public consultation for the project is not to decide
if it will go ahead. . . . Public input is only wanted on how it will
be done, and how concerns of local municipalities are addressed.”
The Surrey News-Leader quoted Falcon on 12 September 2004 as saying “There’s
no need for more studies.” This makes Falcon’s intentions
clear: he is not planning on holding any meaningful public consultations.
If provincial estimates are correct, the $1-billion cost of the #1 Highway
expansion is equivalent to a $238 bill for every citizen (adult and child)
of the province, or $652 for every residence, whether they use the highway
or not. And this is only the cost of building the highway. Maintenance,
policing and health impacts through air quality, reduced physical activity
and accidents, competition with public transit investments, etc will further
increase the cost to the taxpayer of the highway for generations to come.
Urban freeway expansion comes with many hidden costs and there has been
no public accounting of whether the $1-billion investment in highways
is more beneficial than other transportation investments or other public
For over 40 years, road-building projects have demonstrated one principle:
any increased capacity only invites more vehicles to travel the route
and in a few years traffic will have returned to a standstill. Even if
vehicle speeds increase on the highway, there is no capacity to handle
additional traffic on local streets where highway access points are planned.
Widening the #1 Highway, in particular, will allow for more automobile-dependent
development in the Lower Mainland. The ecological impacts will be significant:
more agricultural land will be destroyed and pollution levels will rise.
According to the Provincial Health Officer's 2003 Annual Report (download
the PDF here), mobile sources (i.e.
various forms of transportation and shipping) accounted for 53 percent
of smog-forming pollutants in the Lower Fraser Valley. In fact, compared
with the projected emissions of the controversial Sumas 2 energy plant
in Washington state, Lower Mainland health-related emissions are significantly
higher. Having a healthy population must start by changing our own transportation
and shipping practices. The report notes that a large percentage of the
Vancouver population already lives relatively close to roads carrying
15,000 or more vehicles per day. This should not be increased.
The Provincial Health Officer’s 2003 Annual Report indicates that
there was a 21 percent reduction in emissions from 1985 to 2000. Despite
this, the report indicates that “the haze or smog often blanketing
the Lower Fraser Valley is a continuing concern.” The report also
warns that “automotive pollution in BC is a challenging problem”
due to personal transportation choices. In particular, the 80 percent
increase in sport utility vehicle (SUV) sales throughout the 1990s means
more fuel-inefficient vehicles are on the road, and they will remain there
for many years to come. Widening the #1 Highway stands to reverse the
trend of reducing emissions.
Provincial industry leaders have been some of the most significant proponents
of the #1 Highway expansion plans. Members of the trucking industry, the
Vancouver Port Authority and various Chambers of Commerce have been vocal
in calling for a larger traffic route. But there are alternative planning
options. Transportation Demand Management is a method of planning that
reduces traffic through good land-use decisions in the region. Combined
with more efficient transportation options such as rail and river barge
shipments, there are a number of options that should be considered.
When BC Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon announced his plan to widen the #1 Highway, Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell called for the minister’s resignation, calling Falcon a “petulant child.” He explained, “Minister Falcon has screwed this thing up right from day one. And quite frankly, I think it would be in the best interests of everybody for him to just simply resign. . . . Bring in somebody new that we can talk to."
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan also disproved: “It's completely contrary to what they've been saying about protecting the environment. It's amazing how they can change horses so quickly. We're going to have a huge parking lot in the middle of Burnaby for a major portion of the time. Our city is going to accept more pollution as a result of those vehicles going through.”
The New Westminster and North Vancouver city councils recently agreed
to send a letter to Falcon outlining concerns about the project. The Greater
Vancouver Regional District has asked for an assessment of alternatives
given that the #1 Highway expansion goes against the Livable Region Strategic
Plan. Surrey and Richmond councils have supported the #1 Highway expansion.
Since plans to build a freeway system through Vancouver were first proposed
in the late 1950s, many of the city’s residents have voiced strong
opposition to freeway projects. Original plans would have made Broadway
Ave, 16th Ave, Oak Street, Cambie Street, Clark Street and much of what
is now Yaletown into freeways. Later proposals made variations to these
plans, including the use of the Burrard and Granville bridges as freeway
components. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, residents organized and
rejected freeway plans when, among other things, vast sections of Chinatown
and Strathcona were slated for pavement.
Who can say how the roads in our communities will be affected once the
ability to bring in even greater volumes exists? The #1 Highway already
exists, but widening it would increase demand on a number of local traffic
routes. In East Vancouver, for example, access points to the highway would
be located at Hastings, 1st Ave. and 12th Ave. These roads already operate
at maximum capacity during peak hours. The only way to handle additional
capacity would be to widen existing roads or to build a freeway. In Coquitlam
and New Westminster, the North Fraser Perimeter road is already planned
to manage more traffic through those communities for the traffic coming
from a 6-lane Highway-1. However freeway expansion will render these plans
obsolete. We have not seen how the provincial government is planning to
handle further traffic increases in our communities resulting from the
expanded freeway – any briefings they have had with municipal officials
happened behind closed doors. It is safe to say though, that once the
expectations have been created, they will be difficult to fight against.
With a $1-billion price tag and the environmental implications, the highway
expansion is the last option that should be explored. For example, Toronto
recently presented an expanded transit plan. For less than $1-billion,
the city estimates it can build 16 rapid transit lines. These would help
reduce traffic, reduce pollution, improve goods movement and encourage
healthy communities – a wise investment.