Chambers of Commerce in the Fraser Valley have formed a united front to urge the province to speed up plans to widen Highway 1 all the way to Chilliwack.
A joint call for expedited highway widening as far as Chilliwack – and not just Abbotsford – was issued Tuesday (Aug. 8) by business leaders in response to a request for comment last week for the province’s plans for Highway 1 upgrades from 264th Street to Highway 11.
Chambers of Commerce from Abbotsford, Langley Township/City, Mission, and Chilliwack are pushing for “shovels in the ground” and a provincial promise to fund a further expansion, in order to “ensure the continued growth, and mobility of business and economic activity across the region.”
Congestion “grinds the traffic to a halt regularly,” slowing business, and making it too difficult for people to get around the region, they said.
At the same time, populations of the region are exploding, and forecast to increase by 47 per cent by 2050, the business groups underlined.
Chilliwack was cited as the second fastest-growing city in B.C. in the last federal census.
“Chilliwack is growing rapidly, but traffic is growing and the increased congestion is slowing down not only commuters but the commercial trucks that account for 8.5 per cent of all traffic through the valley corridor,” said Leanna Kemp, executive director of the Chilliwack Chamber. “Widening Highway 1 through the Fraser Valley is essential to ensuring safety, reliability, and efficiency for our truck transportation and commuters in and out of the Lower Mainland.”
Highway 1 functions as “the lifeblood of commerce and connectivity,” in the region, with more than 80,000 vehicles a day.
“Abbotsford’s business community is growing and plays an essential role in the region, being home to the Abbotsford International Airport, University of the Fraser Valley, and other regional assets,” said Alex Mitchell, CEO of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. “Key transportation infrastructure has fallen behind, making this one of the top economic issues facing our community.”
Expansion of the highway to Chilliwack could take decades, the release noted, so the funding commitments are necessary now, so they can eventually pave the way for a thriving and prosperous Fraser Valley.
“Highway 11 connects Mission with the rest of the Fraser Valley and is a critical link to the U.S. border, but the current interchange is holding back growth and slowing business in Mission and across the Valley,” said Miriam Bozman, executive director of the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce. “We want to see this expansion move forward as quickly as possible, and urge the province to prioritize this project and allocate the necessary resources to ensure its timely completion.”
The four Chambers represent “thousands of member businesses” across the Fraser Valley and work to support, connect and advocate for the needs of local business. What is sorely needed, the group is arguing, is for provincial officials to prioritize and expedite “preloading, design, planning, procurement and other timelines and schedules” to get the highway project started, and finished, sooner.
“This group will be sharing a formal submission with the provincial government as part of the official engagement process.”
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