The South Fraser Perimeter Road will cut into farmland and homes
in some areas but, overall, communities along the route will
benefit, government documents say
Thursday, October 26, 2006
The provincial government will need to acquire all or part of more than 700 properties, including about 200 residential properties, for the proposed South Fraser Perimeter Highway.
Government documents show 105 hectares of prime farm land, all of it in Delta, will be taken out of production. That includes 90 hectares needed for the highway right-of-way, and 15 hectares whose access will be cut off by the highway.
The new road will run through 18 hectares of cranberry farms, representing about 10 per cent of B.C.'s $30-million cranberry crop. The planned route skirts around the protected lands of Burns Bog, but will take out 15 hectares of forest near the protected area, mainly along its northern edge.
Those are among the hundreds of details revealed in a stack of documents that comprise the Gateway Program's application to the province's Environmental Assessment Office for environmental certification.
Among the others:
- Planners have rejected a request from Sunbury -- one of Delta's oldest residential areas -- to build a 3.5-kilometre tunnel under the community instead of running the highway through part of the neighbourhood. A tunnel is technically feasible, the documents say, but would be "cost-prohibitive" at three times the price of a surface highway through the same area.
- There are several major archeological sites along the route, where native villages once stood and where human remains are likely to be unearthed.
- Residents near 36 sites along the route may experience noise problems. Most of them can be mitigated, but seven sites are expected to have more "highly annoyed residents" than the maximum acceptable figure of 6.5 per cent.
- The plan calls for a 400-metre-long bridge to be built across the Fraser Heights wetland to minimize disturbances to the area's sensitive ecology.
The $800-million South Fraser Perimeter Road is the second piece of the province's $3-billion Gateway Program to reach the environmental assessment stage.
It follows a project for a new Pitt River Bridge and a Mary Hill interchange, key parts of a $400-million North Fraser Perimeter Road that will connect and improve existing truck routes north of the Fraser River.
The South Fraser road will run for 40 kilometres, starting at Highway 17 in Delta near the Deltaport container port, running north through farm land past Ladner, then west along the northern edge of Burns Bog and along the south shore of the river to Port Kells in Surrey, where it will join up with the approach to TransLink's new Golden Ears Bridge.
It will have four lanes and a speed limit of 80 km/h, with five interchanges and five intersections.
It will be the major east-west link south of the Fraser for goods movement, bypassing the severely congested Port Mann Bridge.
It will link directly or via other access roads to Deltaport, Vancouver International Airport, Fraser Port Terminals, Fraser Surrey Docks, the CN Intermodal Terminal, the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, industrial areas at Tilbury, Annacis Island, Bridgeview and Port Kells, and two U.S. border routes.
The highway is a key piece in the provincial government's plans to turn the Lower Mainland into a gateway for trade between North America and Asia, especially for containers.
It will take a lot of truck and vehicle traffic off the streets of Delta and part of Surrey, some of them now heavily congested.
"There will be a loss of agricultural land and some industrial land," says an overview of the environmental studies.
"However, the broader residential and employment population base in both communities will benefit from reduced congestion, better over-all access and enhanced development opportunities."
A socio-economic study predicts the road will spur development of an additional 74 hectares of land along the highway by 2021, with 7,705 new jobs, increased land values and higher property tax revenue for local governments.
There is broad support for the highway, even from some of the opponents of the more controversial parts of the Gateway Program -- the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and the widening of the Trans-Canada Highway. But some of the details have already provoked opposition and will probably generate more as residents and interest groups learn more about the details.
The highway has been part of regional and provincial road-building plans for decades, said Gateway Program director Mike Proudfoot.
"The studies, the level of review and analysis we've done is significant," he said, promising that the project will clean up after itself.
"We are governed by very rigorous federal and provincial environmental processes," Proudfoot said.
"The results of our studies are now being put forward, with mitigation measures to avoid or minimize the impact of the project, and we welcome public participation and feedback on the work that's been done."
The province's Environmental Assessment Office is holding a series of open houses on the project, and is open for public comment on the project until the end of November.
Most interest groups haven't filed their submissions yet, but Sunbury resident Laura White has protested a lack of information on the rejection of the tunnel proposal.
"We are at a loss to understand why this alternative is not being explored fully," White told the EAO. "The environmental impacts of a tunnel, using the burrowing machines built in Richmond, eliminate the risk of Fraser River, Ravine and Burns Bog impact. It allows for the continued enjoyment of North Delta's only waterfront property and leaves existing parkland untouched.
"Once the land is taken away, we can't go back," White said.
The documents say the tunnel was dismissed because "community benefits did not outweigh the safety risks, high construction costs, and high operations and maintenance costs. The North Delta tunnel concept is not feasible, and it was not considered further."
The bridge over the wetland would reduce the highway's "footprint" in that section to .135 hectare from seven hectares if it was built at road level, the documents say.
There are four known archeological sites along the route and Gateway researchers say they may have found four more.
The major ones are near the Glenrose and St. Mungo fish canneries on the eastern part of the route.
Both canneries were built on the sites of ancient native villages going back 4,500 to 8,000 years, and will require excavation that exposes archeological deposits. Most of the Glenrose site will be left undisturbed but at St. Mungo, there is "high potential to unearth both intact and disturbed cultural deposits, including human remains," the documents say.
Proudfoot said planners are working closely with local first nations to avoid conflicts and archeological specialists will also be used.
The documents also note that the Archeological and Registry Service Branch in the ministry of culture and tourism has suggest that "capping" -- paving over the sites and leaving the artifacts in the ground -- "may be a viable approach to advancing the project, while protecting archeological resources."
The highway right-of-way will occupy a total of 245 hectares including 14 hectares of disturbed lands, 134 hectares of developed rural and urban land, and 97 hectares of land with vegetation and wildlife values.
In addition to the 105 hectares of farm land that will be taken out of production, another 20 hectares may be downgraded to lower-value uses because of access problems.
Proudfoot said project staff are working with local cranberry farmers to try to improve drainage and lessen the impact on the cranberry crop.
Several animal species considered at risk will be affected by construction and habitat changes, including sandhill cranes, Pacific water shrews and southern red-backed voles.
Barn owls will lose roosting habitat and may collide with moving vehicles, the documents say. Sandhill cranes using fields adjacent to Burns Bog and Crescent Slough may find the changes disturbing. The shrews and voles will see reductions in habitat.
The project will acquire all or parts of about 730 properties, most of them industrial and commercial, but including about 200 residential properties, most of them in Sunbury and the Bridgeview area.
It sounds like Sunbury will be hard hit, but Proudfoot said the highway will take so much traffic off River Road that residents will probably be relieved.
"The highway will run on the river side of the community, between the rail line and the residential area," Proudfoot said.
"The Sunbury neighbourhood for years has had the problem of heavy traffic on River Road. The South Fraser Perimeter Road will address that problem, and I think that will be very well received by the community."
Where traffic noise on the new highway is a problem, Gateway staff recommend mitigation measures such as quiet pavement, coordinated traffic signals and noise barrier walls on as many as 25 of the 36 sites forecast to have noise problems.
The highway will not only take traffic off local roads, at 43 locations it will sever them. That will require four new access roads to connect cut-off neighbourhoods and 29 other modifications to local road networks.
There may be "community cohesion issues" in some areas, the documents say, but most of the route goes through industrial areas.
They conclude that "the majority of project-related effects can be fully mitigated."
The project will be modified during subsequent design stages to minimize impact, but in some cases compensation may be required. For example, when fish habitat is destroyed, new habitat may be created in other places.
The project has identified 454 potentially contaminated sites along the route, everything from old industrial operations to railway sorting yards, auto part lots and underground residential fuel-storage tanks. Contaminants may include hydrocarbons, heavy metals, PCBs, herbicides and pesticides and fecal coliforms.
But the documents say all the problems can be addressed, and Proudfoot added that soils along the route will be cleaner after the highway is built than they are now.
Air quality in the region is predicted to improve in the coming years, with or without the South Fraser Perimeter Road. When it is finished, the highway will contribute about one per cent of total emissions in the region, the documents say, but by 2021, air quality guidelines will be exceeded less often than they are now.
All the details can be found on the EAO's website, at http://www.eao.gov.bc.ca/.
- This story can be heard online after 10:30 a.m. today at www.vancouversun.com/readaloud.
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The B.C. transportation ministry's Gateway Program has held
one open house for its South Fraser Perimeter Road proposal and is planning three more:
- Nov. 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Holly elementary school, 4625 62nd St., Delta.
- Nov. 9 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Bridgeview Hall, 11475 126A St., Surrey.
- Nov. 16 at the Pacific Academy, 10238 168th St., Surrey.
SOUTH FRASER PERIMETER ROAD
Proposed route for the South Fraser Perimeter Road, which is slated for construction in 2007. Of the 105 hectares of farmland that will be taken out of production by the South Fraser Perimeter Highway:
- 39 hectares are used to grow vegetable crops.
- 18 hectares grow cranberries.
- 15 hectares are forest land near Burns Bog.
- 15 hectares won't be built on but farmers' access will be severed.
- 13 hectares are used for livestock foraging.
- Four hectares grow blueberries.
- One hectare consists of various small holdings.
Source: Gateway Program documents
© The Vancouver Sun 2006