Monday, January 18, 2010

Gateway Project

Big plans are in store for a transportation mega-project, one that would link our southernmost port site to a major expansion of our highway system. Costs are projected in the billions. As with everything else, it's hard not to think they'll double before the end.

In reality, it would make more sense to develop port facilities at Prince Rupert. A rail system for cargo is well in place. Besides, Rupert is closer to Asia than Vancouver and that means lower fuel costs for transport ships.

It's all supposed to be part of a plan to alleviate traffic in Metro Vancouver. But, as the past seems to have shown, more roads tend to lead to more cars not fewer. One of the oddest parts of this project is its failure to consider where the new multi-lane highway will lead its army of commuters -- to a bottleneck intersection without room for expansion. When all those cars that zoomed over the bridge try to turn off at the Grandview exit, hmmm.

The ten-lane bridge that's part of this vision is planned as a toll bridge. It's used by many daily commuters -- ordinary folks who drive to their jobs, ones who currently lack a viable mode of public transit.

So, I can only ask again, Why isn't the new, improved Sea-to-Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler being tolled? Most people who use that road aren't daily commuters, but people heading north for recreation. Discretionary travel (especially when so many of the users are better off than your average Joe) seems a better justification for charging tolls.

Already, if you're driving on Highway 1, you can't ignore the torn-up medians -- bulldozed miles of what used to be mostly-green divider.

Where they've torn up all that centre section, why don't they install tracks and run public transit along that corridor? Chicago has a train that zips along between lanes of traffic. No doubt, other cities have found this a solution. Sure, there are 'future plans' for light rapid transit, but they're down the road, not part of any initial, necessary stage.

As with so many projects, environmental impact is a major issue. And with a project of this size, the magnitude of this impact is far-reaching. Sensitive river frontage will be affected; flooding and erosion would seem logical results, especially if climate change predictions are considered. But even more at risk is the currently protected Burns Bog, a sprawling peat bog. Campaigners are currently working to have it designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For all of our provincial government’s talk about decreasing our carbon footprint, cutting off part of the bog (often called the ‘lungs of the Lower Mainland’) seems contradictory. Is increasing truck traffic really a goal we should pursue?

Saturday was a public meeting on the Gateway Project, which incidentally, has not yet been officially approved. And no, I didn't attend. I'm realizing I can't go to every protest or information meeting I'd like to be part of. Instead, my Dear Man and I did our own gateway project. A homely little gate, built with all recycled materials, that blends in as if it had always been there.

If only the bigger Gateway Project could do so little harm.


Karen said...

Okay, my third attempt at this comment. I always seem to do something wrong.
Anyway, I love YOUR gate:) We have something very similar, (weathered wood) that was picked up from the side of the road. That was back when there used to be a cleanup week, and people piled their 'junk' out by the street. Come to think of it, all our small gates were free or garage sale finds, and even some of our big farm gates we have managed to get second hand. Can't beat recycling! Maybe I will have to do a gate 'post' on my blog!

hg said...

That clean-up week was great, wasn't it! And it always made for good conversations between neighbours.
You're right, Karen, it was always a great way for finding useful stuff. One man's junk as another man's treasure -- all too true.
Looking forward to seeing your gate post (or should that be gatepost posting?).