Odd Thoughts: The road to division

This year marks an anniversary for the TransCanada Highway.

Langley was once a big happy family.

And then, along came Flying Phil Gaglardi and his freeway vision.

The legendary provincial minister was elected in the Interior as one of BC’s first Social Credit MLAs, led by Premier WAC (Wacky) Bennett, in the 1950s. But he cut his political teeth in Langley in the 1930s as a church minister.

His 1955 plan to cut municipalities in half along the length of the Fraser Valleyt also started from a more modest 1954 vision to rebuild Fraser Highway – then the Trans-Canada Highway – to reroute westbound traffic on two lanes south of Langley City and eastbound traffic to the north.

It took four years before people in Langley started to understand the magnitude of the change the new highway would bring to their communities.

The noise started in 1959 when road-building neared Langley, and Brown Road (240th St.) residents learned that their thoroughfare was to be cut in half and dead-ended on either side of the new east-west freeway.

Worse yet, Aldergrove was aghast to learn that Jackman Road (272nd St.) was to receive the same treatment.

The noise got even louder when the sod was cut at Otter Road (248th St.) to commence work on the freeway section from Livingstone Road (232nd St.) east to Mt. Lehman.

Somehow, the Aldergrove Chamber of Commerce didn’t notice for several months that there were no plans for a Jackman overpass… but made up for it with an extra dose of anger when they figured it out.

That was about the same time that Coghlan Road (256th St.) was the first road to actually get severed by the freeway construction. Flying Phil broke through the uproar to assure everyone that Coghlan would be re-opened.

But the entire provincial cabinet refused to even meet with a Langley Council committee which had been struck to ask said cabinet to ensure that all of Langley’s “mile” roads (every 8th street from 200th through 272nd) would remain connected across the freeway.

Check your nearest street map to see how that turned out… and keep in mind that the crossing at 208th St. wasn’t built until the 1990s, entirely at Langley’s expense (a novel-length story in itself).

Wacky Bennett and Flying Phil officially opened the freeway 55 years ago this year… and Langley was divided forever.

So the next time you hear or read anything about discord of any kind between two or more communities that make up the overall community of Langley, just remember: it was all Flying Phil’s fault.

And that darned freeway!

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