The City of Abbotsford continues to lobby the province to widen Highway 1 to the Whatcom exit. File photo

Abbotsford to ask other cities to join call for Highway 1 widening

Council debates whether city should specify that additional lane could be used for HOV traffic

Abbotsford still hopes to get other B.C. mayors and councillors to sign onto a resolution calling for Highway 1 to be widened all the way to Abbotsford.

Mayor Henry Braun, who has repeatedly called for more lanes between Abbotsford and Langley, applauded Thursday’s announcement that the highway will be widened to 264th Street. He said he was pleased to hear Premier John Horgan suggest the province planned to eventually continue the project to Abbotsford.

RELATED: Abbotsford mayor applauds highway widening announcement

But the city will still be asking other municipalities to back its plea to the province to widen the highway all the way to Abbotsford’s Whatcom exit.

Last week, Abbotsford council voted to submit a resolution to the upcoming Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference calling for widening, and the city confirmed Friday the resolution has been submitted.

Exactly how to get those fellow politicians onside sparked some debate last week.

A successful resolution can’t actually get the project moving, but it would show the provincial government that support for widening the highway is broader than just those communities most obviously affected.

To make that case, Coun. Patricia Ross said the city should specify that an extra lane should be for HOV vehicles and connect with one being built through Langley. She said that doing so – and specifying the importance of such a lane to provide quicker, more reliable bus service between the Fraser Valley and Vancouver – could get urban transit-focused politicians on side.

“I think it strengthens our argument in that it helps not just cars but also transit and the [Fraser Valley Express],” she said.

Ross also suggested the motion include language suggesting that the highway should eventually be widened to Chilliwack.

RELATED: Federal infrastructure minister talks Highway 1 widening in Fraser Valley

But Mayor Henry Braun and several fellow councillors said they were worried that being that specific would unduly complicate the issue.

“I think if we put too many restrictions on it, it might get rejected,” Braun said.

With Coun. Bruce Banman absent, Ross’s proposed amendments resulted in a rare split 4-4 vote, and thus were defeated.

Despite that, Coun. Ross Siemens, who backed Ross’s amendments, said once the motion makes it to the floor of the conference, its backers can get into more specifics – including the economic importance of widening the highway and improving the flow of truck traffic and goods.

“This isn’t just an Abbotsford issue, it’s not just a regional issue; this is a provincial and even a national and international trade issue,” he said. “This isn’t really an expense for [the province], this is an investment.”

The city is also putting forth a resolution calling for the province to addressing court delays and community safety and look at ways to ease what it calls “B.C.’s restrictive charge approval standards.”

The resolution points to recent increases in gang crime and says B.C. has the highest threshold to meet in order to get charges laid against gangsters.

Braun has previously suggested that police be allowed to directly lay charges, as happens in Ontario.

But one expert in the field called that idea “nonsensical” and said it led to inefficient and overcrowded justice systems.

RELATED: Give police ability to directly lay charges, ‘fed up’ Abbotsford mayor says

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