There are a few transportation issues that remain at the forefront for the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, but the widening of Trans-Canada Highway is a “sticking point” for vice-president Ken Dennis.
“It’s been announced three times in five years by various governments, and I haven’t really seen any shovels in the ground; it’s not on the current government work plan,” he said about the widening of Highway 1 from 216th to 264th Streets.
“Frankly, I’m kind of tired of politicians just trotting out here to Langley to pander for votes for a photo-op on the side of the highway,” Dennis said.
“[Meanwhile], we’re sitting here in growing traffic jams. And you know, nothing’s getting done.”
Other transporation projects that the local chamber continues to lobby for include the SkyTrain extension east and transit to the suburb of Gloucester Industrial Estate.
“The chamber is an advocate for businesses and we want to facilitate, wherever we can, certainly with the various level of governments,” Dennis said.
“We hear the concerns of members of the chamber, and we pass those on to the BC Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce,” he explained.
Dennis himself operates a technology company that provides on-site IT support. Previously his company served the Lower Mainland, but they’ve had to cut down their service area.
“We just can’t take the time to sit in traffic to go serve a customer downtown, it’s just not financially feasible to have a technician sitting in traffic for an hour, hour and 15 minutes just to get there and then return,” he explained.
But Dennis argues improving transportation infrastructure provides greater benefit than reducing traffic congestion.
He cited the province’s Pacific Gateway Transportation Strategy, which argues the importance of building transportation infrastructure to support greater capacity to move goods to and from Asia.
The report stated in 2001 that almost 70 per cent of B.C.’s exports went to the United States. Today it accounts for less than 50 per cent of exports, as trade grows in Asia.
By 2020 trade volume of coal was expected to increase by 150 per cent, metals and minerals by 310 per cent and forest products by 100 per cent.
Despite the government recognizing the significance of building up infrastructure, not only to help the general public, but to move goods, Dennis says there’s just not enough movement.
“There’s lots of benefits to doing these upgrades. But, I’m a little bit disheartened that we get lots of announcements, but not a lot of action,” he said.
“There’s so much evidence to state the importance of increasing the Highway 1 infrastructure. And I mean, even in the [BC Trucking Association release], I think it says two per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) is from the trucking industry and it employs 40,000 people, which is one of the largest individual sectors even above mining and forestry. So I mean, if we can’t even support our biggest industry, it doesn’t really bode well.”
In addition, Dennis says for several years the chamber has been petitioning for bus services to the industrial area of Gloucester.
“Businesses have expressed frustration that their staff often have commuting issues and its holding back business growth,” he explained.
But recently, Dennis said that TransLink is expected to host a meeting on the subject in the next few weeks.
“I am happy to hear there is some potential movement on that issue,” he said.
The chamber is also hopeful the SkyTrain will come to Langley, but Dennis admits COVID may have an impact.
“I don’t think anybody can ignore the fact that COVID has been largely detrimental to so many industries,” he said.
Dennis does believe there are strides being made with the SkyTrain extension, but says government officials need to make concrete deadlines and be held to account.
“I think it’s incumbent upon all citizens to make your voices heard and write letters to your your MLAs (member of the legislative assembly) and to your MPs (member of Parliament), and make sure that they’re aware of your concerns,” he said.