Some Walnut Grove residents are upset at the plans for the 216th Street interchange as it moves closer to starting construction.
The residents, most living on or near 216th Street, launched a Change.org petition this week suggesting alternatives, including building the interchange at the Glover Road overpass instead.
The petition is called “Stop the 216th interchange project until a Walnut Grove transportation plan is approved.”
Graeme Harfman is one of the organizers. He said that south of the highway, the Township is planning for the largely-industrial Williams neighbourhood around the interchange.
“By contrast, the development of our community is already in place, and we get a four-lane highway dumped into our back yards,” Harfman said.
The interchange will include an overpass and on- and off-ramps at 216th, allowing drivers to connect to 80th Avenue in the south and 88th or 96th Avenues on the north side.
Traffic heading north to 96th would pass two schools, including Ecole des Voyageurs, a provincial French-language school.
“It’s out of balance,” said Harfman.
He’s worried about the impact on single-family homes along the route if traffic increases sharply.
While he said local residents knew the interchange was coming, they feel that 200th Street was designed around the idea of an interchange, while their neighbourhoods were not.
As part of the $59 million project, the Trans Canada Highway will be widened to six lanes all the way from 202nd Street to 216th.
The HOV ramps too and from 202nd will also be finished.
The design includes sidewalks for pedestrians and bike lanes across the highway.
Project manager Sheila Hui said the interchange is designed with growth in traffic and population up to 2045 in mind.
Construction is expected to start this fall and be complete by 2019.
The goal of the project is to improve traffic flow on the highway, relieve congestion at 200th and 232nd, and increase connectivity between the north and south sides of the highway.
If the residents along 216th to the north can’t get the interchange moved, they would like the overpass decreased to two lanes and a guarantee that there won’t be a commercial truck route on the north side.
Another possibility suggested by the petition is limiting access to the south side of the highway only.
They are also asking for traffic studies, environmental impact analysis, and possibly roundabouts to eliminate semi-truck traffic.
Township Mayor Jack Froese noted that 216th, 88th, and 96th are already truck routes.
Froese was at last week’s open house organized by the provincial Ministry of Transportation and spoke to some locals with concerns.
“Most people seem resigned that it’s coming,” Froese said.
Trucks from the Williams area will for the most part be getting on the highway rather than trying to drive through Walnut Grove, Froese said.
As for whether the Williams neighbourhood would be possible without the interchange, Froese said “It would be possible; it wouldn’t be desirable.”
The Township’s planning of the Williams neighbourhood will be one of the most extensive increases in industrial land in Langley in recent years.
Hoffman said he was encouraged by support for the idea of a petition at last week’s open house event.
The 216th Street interchange has been a proposed project for more than 30 years.
In 2007, maps showing a 216th interchange were listed as the last component of the Gateway Project, which replaced the Port Mann Bridge and widened the Trans Canada Highway as far as Langley.