COLUMN: A new route for traffic, and politics?

Despite the low 50 km speed limit along Zero Avenue, it took only slightly more than an hour to reach the toll booths at Tsawwassen.

Accustomed to being fed “brunch”, I’m sure my animals felt rudely awakened as I tossed them hay at 5:30 a.m. last week, the poodles equally surprised to be tossed outside so early to take care of business.

However, the morning machinations had to be undertaken early if I was to catch the ferry to Victoria in time to attend the last legislative session of the current government.

Surprisingly, and despite the artificially low 50 km speed limit along Zero Avenue, it took only slightly more than an hour to reach the toll booths at Tsawwassen. Which made me wonder why it couldn’t be achieved even more quickly if there was an efficient high-speed southern east-west connector as an alternative to the overburdened Highway 1.

After all, the Fraser Valley is the growth centre during the next few decades, and unlike Vancouver which is some 50 km north of the border, Abbotsford and much of Langley is situated right on it, so demand and need for such a route can only increase.

And it isn’t just quicker access to the Island ferries that is the issue, but Vancouver International Airport as well. In fact I can’t remember when I travelled from Abbotsford to the airport that I didn’t take Zero or 8th/16th Avenues to get there.

Quicker, convenient and far less traffic than trying to wend my way through Vancouver or New Westminster.

Certainly a southern transportation corridor linking the 99 Freeway with Highway 1 in Abbotsford has long been talked about, with 16th Ave the favourite since it would also provide direct access/egress to Abbotsford Airport.

However, that route would mean considerable land acquisition at higher prices, and either myriad driveways entering the route or even more space for parallel roads on each side to provide residential/farm access.

Zero, on the other hand, has far fewer entryways, and only on the north side. A single parallel road would address access and, for safety purposes, separate the homesites from the high-speed traffic.

On the southern side, all that would be needed is a high fence to prevent wildlife collisions, while at the same time make our American friends happy that their country would be more secure from terrorists, drug runners and enterprising Canadians trying to sneak through the berry fields to buy cheap gas.

This route would also provide better access to the border crossings at both Aldergrove and Pacific Highway for both cross-border shoppers and commercial transport. And to avoid screwing up the entries to the crossings the new route could swing up from Zero to 8th just west of the Aldergrove crossing, while providing an even more seamless route to Abbotsford Airport. Avoiding a traffic mess at the Pacific Crossing would simply mean rerouting just east of 176th, again up to 8th, to link up with that recently upgraded roadway to the 99 Freeway.

Simple, smooth and fairly easily accomplished, and at far less cost than rewhacking 16th Ave into a sort-of freeway.

So if you’ve ever wondered what goes through the minds of some people as they sit for an hour and 40 minutes on a fog and rain shrouded ferry, the above is one of the answers.

As to the last legislative session, it was interesting . . . even more so because I was there for the first one of this government some 12 years ago.

The big question however, certainly for many of those I watched on the Legislative floor last Thursday, will not be whether the May 14 ‘employment review’ results in a new government, but a ‘new’ political party leading it.