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New Fraser River crossing welcomed by Huntington
Premier Christy Clark said the province will soon address Delta's desperate need for a new Fraser River crossing, but a solution may be as far as a decade away.
Speaking to reporters at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria on Friday (Sept. 28), Clark said she didn't know where the new crossing would go, when it might be built, or whether it would be a bridge or a tunnel.
"I don't know the answer to that," she said bluntly. "We don't even know what the replacement would look like."
Delta-South MLA Vicki Huntington expressed cautious optimism to the news.
“Delta needs a good connection for commuters," she said from Victoria. "While I accept there will be some costs, I do not want any crossing at any cost. The devil is always in the details.”
Clark said the province is just in the planning process, and although she could not say what those plans entail she acknowledged the need for a solution for Delta.
"It's an economic bottleneck," Clark said. "Talk to anybody who drives through the Massey Tunnel in rush hour commute and they will tell you it's a huge headache."
It's not just a headache for some frustrated business owners. Robert Miller, president of Diaset Products Ltd. in the Tilbury Industrial Park off River Road, says the gridlock is eating his profits.
"No shipments will leave this afternoon from my manufacturing plant," said Miller, though it's not because they're not ready to ship.
"When I try to explain to my customer in Chile that his order is held up one more day because of a stalled car, he will think that I am joking. He will point out that he has no problems getting products from one of my competitors [in the United States]," said Miller.
He also cited the closing off of 68th St. to commuter traffic which has created a parking lot on River Road, meaning local traffic can drive around the Crescent Dr. area but they can't leave until traffic clears.
Miller said companies like his get paid based on the date the shipments arrive, which means a loss of a single day has a significant effect on cash flow.
Huntington said she wasn't sure where the best place for a new crossing might be, but suggested a connection from the South Fraser Perimeter Road to 72nd or 80th streets might work, with an eye toward the long-term vision of a crossing at Boundary Rd. from Richmond to Vancouver.
"The bridge would have to have a huge approach to it," she said, adding she would work to ensure any new crossing will not eat up valuable farmland.
Huntington said gridlock is due to population booms east of Delta, pushing traffic from the Alex Fraser Bridge to the tunnel.
But there are things that can be done with the traffic signals at Hwy. 99 and River Road and the exit to the tunnel in Richmond that would have an immediate positive impact on gridlock in Delta, says Huntington.
She said would bring up those, and other issues when she meets with Minister of Transportation Mary Polak, scheduled for Friday afternoon.
— with files from Jeff Nagel