Approval of the revised Mufford overpass project was made public via a provincial government press release on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m.
By afternoon, people working on property acquisition were already sending e-mails to property owners whose land they need for the project. Who says the wheels of government move slowly? When funding is on the line, as is the case with this project, government can move very quickly. Too bad governments can’t make a regular habit habit of that.
It took the Agricultural Land Commission well over a year to rule that the first Mufford overpass proposal consumed too much farmland. This came despite the majority of Langley Township council backing the project and seeming to be oblivious to its potential impact on farms, not only near Mufford Crescent, but as far east as 232 Street and 64 Avenue.
After the rejection, Langley Township realized that its chances of getting the project completed on time were rapidly diminishing. Council voted to have the ministry of transportation and highways take over management of the project. In less than a year, it came up with a revised and better proposal, one which does not funnel a large amount of urban traffic into rural areas. It also will consume less farmland, and will not turn a significant chunk of farmland into potential urban land through isolation.
This time, there was also better consultation.While some residents are unhappy that council isn’t holding a formal public hearing, there was plenty of feedback at the open houses held in September. While no significant changes were made as a result of the open houses, the most significant adjustments were incorporated in the new proposal.
Traffic from the Willowbrook commercial area will move over the tracks onto Highway 10, or Langley Bypass east of Glover Road. It will not be funneled east to 216 Street and 64 Avenue, and then north and south on 216 Street or east on 64 Avenue.
A series of new traffic signals will slow down Glover Road traffic even more. It is already painfully slow at times, due to congestion at the Crush Crescent/Glover Road intersection.
The ministry needs to consider four-laning Glover Road and the stretch of Highway 10 east of Glover Road to 232 Street. That would help move traffic better. However, that project isn’t even on the drawing board. Nor are there any plans to build a rail overpass where Highway 10 crosses the tracks. Traffic will continue to back up every time a train passes. When we are up to 36 trains a day, with many of them two miles long, there will be a lot of congestion.
As this is the major highway connecting Highway 1 with the border, the Vancouver airport and Tsawwassen ferry terminal, this is patently ridiculous. But there has been no movement by the ministry to even consider such an overpass.
The Mufford overpass is part of the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor, which includes a massive amount of funding from Ottawa. There is a March 31, 2014 time limit. While Ottawa may grant an extension if the project is well underway by that time, that isn’t guaranteed.
Despite its flaws, the Mufford overpass project needs to go ahead. Funding has been secured, and it will help ease some traffic problems. However, the long-term answer to traffic congestion in urban Langley due to train movement is a Highway 10 rail overpass. Both Langley City and Langley Township need to emphasize this fact to the ministry and local MLAs.
The Highway 10 overpass needs to be included in the next round of highway capital projects. Some additional pressure on Ottawa to help pay for it would also be worthwhile.