Odd Thoughts: History taken for a ride over Langley/Maple Ridge crossing

The Fraser River crossing debate has a long history.

Some of the best comedy is found in history.

Consider the mad case of the never-ending ferry project.

It’s easy to forget, as you nip over the Golden Ears Bridge for a quick trip into Maple Ridge, that the crossing used to be a rigmarole, and not without peril. The ferry that connected Fort Langley with Albion made the trip in just a few minutes, but line-ups for boarding could run into hours.

And then, sometimes, the ferry didn’t make it across… when “the rubber band broke,” people would laugh. But it was only funny for those who weren’t aboard when a tug had to catch the ferry downriver and drag it back up.

Even longer than the ride across the river was the ferry’s voyage from conception to berth… and then another berth… and then another berth.

The first serious attempt to develop a Fraser River crossing between Langley and Haney started in the 1920s. Disagreements over the where-to-where of it eventually scuttled the plan.

By the mid-1930s, all pertinent federal, provincial, and municipal authorities were on board… sort of. A site for a McMillan Island ferry slip was selected and inspected and the province agreed to build an access road.

The next two years were spent quibbling over whether the ferry would support vehicles or just pedestrian traffic.

Another year, and the wharf was ready for a ferry… but there was no location yet chosen on the other side. It would be three years before any ferry launched from the Langley side could find a berth in Haney – and another two years before there was a ferry – and two more years to find a captain.

When the slips, captain, and ferry (a tug and barge) were ready to make steam, the captain fell ill and there was no one left on the bridge.

In the meantime, Fort Langley began clamouring for a bridge instead of a ferry – a story that continued to 2009.

After another decade of Keystone Cops slapstick, Premier Wacky Bennett built new wharves to replace the unused ones that had decayed beyond repair, and the T’Lagunna (named for “Golden Ears” but actually meaning “deaf”) left Fort Langley for Albion in June of 1957.

The maiden launch took place without key dignitary Highways Minister Flyin’ Phil Gaglardi.

He’d missed the boat.

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