Hospital Hill overpass will be subject of report

Township Councillor Kim Richter’s campaign to build a pedestrian overpass connecting Langley Memorial Hospital to the other side of the Fraser Highway won enough support for a report last Monday (Feb. 14.)But finding enough money to build it this year, as she wants, is going to be tricky.Township staff are being asked to investigate possible sources of funding for the project Richter considers the best way of preventing hospital employees from making a hazardous journey across the busy four-lane stretch in search of free parking.After one pedestrian was hit at the top of “Hospital Hill,” council recently approved construction of a fence stretching from the eastbound left-turn bay on Fraser Highway at 222 Street to several metres beyond the westerly end of the landscaped median.“Putting a fence up is not the answer,” Richter told council. “The best solution is an overpass.”While Richter has the backing of council, even her strongest supporters doubt the Township can find enough money in the 2011 budget to build the overpass.Councillor Jordan Bateman, who seconded Richter’s proposal, noted the project would cost more than $1 million to build and there isn’t nearly enough squirreled away in the Township funds set aside for the project.“I don’t think we’ll like the answer [when we get the report]” Bateman said.A Hospital Hill overpass was approved in the 1989 Murrayville Community Plan, which set out to raise the money by charging $250 for every new residential unit created on the north side of the Fraser Highway.Twenty-two years later, that has generated only a fraction of the needed amount, about $175,000.Richter wants Township staff to investigate the possibility of finding the money by pulling out of a deal with the City of Langley to build the 196 Street overpass, but that is unlikely, according to Councillor Bob Long, who doubts the $5 million commitment can be broken.Councillor Charlie Fox said the problem would go away if hospital employees weren’t being forced to pay for parking at work.“This problem would be solvable if Fraser Health respected their staff,” Fox said.“We wouldn’t be discussing fences, overpasses, nothing.”The report is expected before council approves the 2011 budget.- with files from Natasha Jones