Marchers headed down 216th Street to oppose a planned highway interchange.

Marchers oppose interchange in Walnut Grove

Protesters marched down 216th Street Saturday morning.

Walnut Grove residents gathered to march in opposition to the planned 216th Street interchange Saturday morning.

Despite heavy rain, dozens of local residents turned out for the march from Telegraph Trail down 216th to 88th Avenue.

“You take a close look at my house, how close it would come to my front room,” said Betty Nelson.

She and her husband Eugene were among the first people to move into the neighbourhood 25 years ago, and they still live on a corner at 216th Street.

She’s concerned about the pollution from increased traffic, and also from a proposed sound barrier that could be built along residential streets.

“I’ll have to have my lights on all day and all night,” Nelson said.

The low-density homes that line 216th Street for most of its length from Telegraph Trail to 96th Avenue is the main issue for most protesters.

“The issue here is that the Township isn’t abiding by its own community plan,” said Graeme Harfman, an organizer of the event.

“This is being jammed down our throats without public consultation,” said Harfman.

Even the nearby roads could be affected.

Walter Becker, who helped lead the march, said he’s worried about cars running through quiet residential streets to get to 216th Street.

“It’s not just the noise, it’s the air quality,” said Linda Nash. She noted that it will bring more traffic past two elementary schools. Becker said that additional traffic on side streets could also see more cars passing a third school, Alex Hope Elementary.

Although there has been a loose plan for a 216th Street interchange for about 30 years, it wasn’t seriously considered until the 1990s.

Several residents said they preferred the plan that was floated then, which was known as the Cottonwood Connector. There was a plan to punch that road through at roughly 217A Street, to the east of the residential areas.

However, that plan was linked to a briefly-considered plan for the Golden Ears Bridge. That plan was quickly dropped.

The formal planning for a 216th Street interchange was revived as part of the Gateway project, which included the Port Mann Bridge replacement and the widening of the Trans Canada Highway.

Some area residents objected to that idea in 2007, when it showed up on maps showing the overall Gateway Project design.

Funding for the project was released last year just before the federal election, with the federal, provincial, and municipal governments contributing. As a highway project, it is primarily a provincial project.

Harfman said the local residents will be targeting their local MLAs, including Rich Coleman.

“This will be an election issue,” he said.

If they can’t see the interchange relocated or stopped, residents are hoping to see other changes, possibly including only allowing access to the south side of the highway, into Willoughby.

Construction is scheduled to start next year.

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