Graeme Harfman called for a halt to the 216th Street interchange plan

No change to interchange plan for Willoughby and Walnut Grove

The Township won’t try to hit pause on a new interchange.

Walnut Grove residents near 216th Street made a last-ditch effort Monday to convince Langley Township council to halt or amend plans for an interchange.

After hearing from several residents, and considerable debate, council passed a bylaw to borrow money for its portion of road improvements linked to the provincially-funded interchange.

“My prediction is there’s going to be one child a year killed by crossing that street,” said Graeme Harfman, a speaker and organizer of the efforts to block the interchange.

The residents are upset by the plan to build a full overpass and interchange at 216th Street

Harfman wanted to see the entire process halted until a full public process was completed on revising the Walnut Grove Neighbourhood Plan.

“I’m surprised to hear you say there hasn’t been a public process,” said Councillor Blair Whitmarsh. “In fact, there’ve been numerous public processes to get where we are today.”

“Those are public processes for something else, not for what you’re doing here today,” said Harfman.

He said sketches of a proposed interchange in the late 1980s and early 1990s showed the road from the interchange veering to the east, roughly over to 217 or 217A street.

Mayor Jack Froese noted that using 217A street as an alignment for the interchange was briefly considered when there was a possibility that the Golden Ears Bridge could have been built north of that spot and connected to 216th.

“That’s the only time I can find reference to 217A,” Froese said.

The mayor argued that such an alignment would punch through farmland as well.

Other residents stressed alternative designs, or the environmental and social impacts of the increase in traffic on 216th Street.

Peter Kravchuke brought up the possibility of turning the Glover Road overpass into an interchange. That idea was considered impractical for safety and logistical reasons by a provincial report.

Kravchuke also suggested a design that would allow access on and off the highway to the south side only.

Other residents spoke of air pollution, and particularly its effects on children at the two schools along 216th Street.

“Sadly, the needed buffer zone was sacrificed for development,” said Lind Nash, who has lived just off 216th for decades.

Noise was also an issue, with a significant increase in traffic noise expected.

Thomas Weihua Sun said the Township should commission a new, independent report, and criticized the one drawn up for the Ministry of Transportation.

Ultimately, Harfman and the other speakers wanted the Township to tell the Ministry of Transportation to put the project on hold.

Speaking after the meeting, Coun. Charlie Fox said that the Township simply can’t halt the project. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure isn’t bound by local neighbourhood plans.

“They are a step above that,” he said.

The bylaw approved Monday was to borrow $13.7 million for the Township’s portion of the project, including widening, sound attenuating walls, and other upgrades. Earlier this year, the council voted to add $1.5 million to its budget for more noise attenuation.

The interchange has been planned for 216th Street for about 30 years, and was part of the Gateway Project that expanded Highway One and the Port Mann Bridge. However, funding was only found for the interchange as part of a flurry of infrastructure announcements just before the 2015 federal election.

 

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