Residents send sand to Shirley in SFPR protest

Transport minister set to receive samples of dirty dunes lining route

By Brian Lewis, The Province July 25, 2010


There are now parts of Delta and north Surrey where a camel is likely a more appropriate mode of transport than a car, thanks to pre-filling for the $1-billion South Fraser Perimeter Road.

Copious amounts of dirty grey sand, piled like drifts in the Sahara, cover once-fertile farmland and parts of neighbourhoods now stripped of houses and trees to make way for construction of the 40-kilometre, four-lane freeway that will link an expanding Deltaport to Highway 1 at 176th Street in Surrey.

Public opposition to the SFPR remains extremely strong for economic, social, environmental and public-health reasons, and now several community groups are uniting in a unique way to express their displeasure at Victoria for pushing this project down their throats.

They’re going to give some of the sand back.

Specifically, between now and Oct. 10, they plan to have thousands of individual recycled envelopes containing small amounts of SFPR sand and a petition seeking the project’s cancellation hand-delivered to Transportation Minister Shirley Bond’s office in Victoria. (For details, see

In part, the petition says: “We have more than enough preload sand so I am sending some back to you.”

It’s a tad tongue-in-cheek but, as organizer Bernadette Keenan of north Surrey’s Bridgeview Community Association says, it’s based on extremely serious underlying concerns.

In her long-established neighbourhood, which lies east of the Pattullo Bridge, Keenan says this four-lane truck freeway will have a huge negative impact, including extra noise and pollution from more than 2,000 big trucks passing by daily.

Many nearby houses have already been demolished and the long-term neighbours have left.

It’s particularly ironic, she adds, that further east, the SFPR route will run right alongside the new 384-hectare Surrey Bend Park that the municipality was singing praises about only last week. So much for the park’s peace, tranquillity and fresh air, what with caravans of container-carrying 18-wheelers roaring past.

It’s not just by chance that the Sand for Shirley campaign is being launched Sunday during the free International Bog Days Festival at Burns Bog in Delta (10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at 10388 Nordel Court).

Much of the concern about the SFPR is due to its routing alongside Burns Bog and the long-term damage it’s expected to inflict on this highly sensitive area, which is vital to the Fraser River’s health and ours — it’s known as the “lungs of the Lower Mainland.”

On the economic front, longtime and knowledgeable SFPR critic Don Hunt of the Sunbury Neighbourhood Association in Delta predicts that SFPR construction and maintenance through the Burns Bog region will be much costlier than expected.

“The bog here is as much as 225 metres deep,” he tells me. “Once it’s built, the freeway will constantly be in need of repair because it’ll simply be floating on top of the very soft ground.”

There’s also rising speculation that container-shipping forecasts which underpinned the business case for both the SFPR and Deltaport’s planned Terminal 2 expansion — they’re mutually dependent — have been extremely optimistic.

It’s worth noting that completion date for the SFPR has been set back one full year, while completion of Terminal 2 was recently delayed from 2015 to 2020.

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Rolling the dice by building costly highway and port

By Ian Robertson, The Delta Optimist May 15, 2010


It’s been some time since I wrote about Deltaport and the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR). In the past year the third berth at Deltaport has been completed and the port now unloads up to three container ships at any one time. The SFPR construction has commenced. B.C. Rail has extended its third track under the Highway 17 overpass and continues to acquire land beside the tracks for a future expanded rail yard, once described as being 17 tracks wide.

Part of the deal for the port expansion and as a temporary fix until the SFPR is completed, Port Metro Vancouver contributed some $3 million to improve Highway 17 south and north of the Ladner Trunk Road intersection with extended truck lanes and a longer northbound HOV lane. This was to relieve congestion.

You may not be convinced the traffic situation has really improved. Recently I counted 19 southbound container trucks between highways 99 and 10 and 22 trucks northbound between the rail tracks and Highway 10.

What these numbers mean is the right lane on Highway 17 is almost solidly filled with container trucks. Delta police have reported that a significant number of them are unsafe to be on the road. Port Metro Vancouver meanwhile seems to take little, if any, action.

In Ontario, on the Queen Elizabeth Way between Hamilton and Toronto, the Ministry of Transportation has placed traffic lights that limit the number of vehicles entering the congested highway. Why not use that same device for trucks as they attempt to enter Highway 17 off Deltaport Way?

Even better, let B.C. Ferries further limit trucks when a major ferry is unloading. We don’t need millions of dollars for this fix, just a little ingenuity.

If you drive Highway 17 north from Tsawwassen, the work being done just before and after the railway tracks is a preview of your new route to the tunnel via SFPR. There will be an arching overpass to take you over the railway tracks, head east to 72nd Street, then north to Highway 99, where you will use a new cloverleaf to merge and then backtrack to the tunnel.

Don’t like this and want to continue to use the current route? It may be possible, but at reduced speeds.

The latest update on SFPR continues to suggest completion by 2012. Close examination of the timeline might suggest later. Meanwhile, the Panama Canal’s major expansion will be ready by early 2014 and it will be able to handle almost all ships currently calling at Deltaport.

If you are shipping goods destined for Chicago, New York or Montreal, would you use this West Coast port and rail, or ship directly to idle capacity on the East Coast? Much of Deltaport and SFPR may only be needed to the end of 2013. It’s a big gamble — using our money.

Add the billion dollars for SFPR to the several billions being spent at the port — and your great grandchildren’s education funding is bound up in this deal!

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