After a Labour Day weekend that saw hundreds of people stuck in holiday traffic, Chilliwack MLA John Martin is once again renewing the call to expand Highway 1 to six lanes all the way out to Chilliwack.
“One of the big reasons we’ve got transportation and moving problems in the Eastern Fraser Valley is we don’t have our six lanes of highway,” Martin said in a video he posted on his Facebook page.
He said the highway was built in 1961 and was great for that day and age, but the time has long come to increase capacity.
“It’s no longer adequate, we need six lanes.”
In a BC Liberal caucus communications column, Martin said the story of heavy holiday traffic on long weekends repeats itself on a regular basis, but it’s not just long weekends.
“Outside of busy weekends, many people in Chilliwack commute to support their families while others drive the highway transporting goods to points west,” he wrote. “No matter the day, Highway One is far busier than those who built it in 1961 would have ever imagined.”
Martin said as part of the former BC Liberal government’s BC on the Move plan, six-lane expansion of Highway 1 was planned not to Chilliwack, but at least out to Whatcom Road.
That plan was shelved when the NDP took office with a decision made to study whether or not expansion is the right option.
“You don’t need to study it,” Martin said in his video. “It’s like studying to see if rotting fish smell. We know we have a problem.”
Martin’s call is for drivers to write, email or call Transportation Minister Claire Trevena to tell her we need six lanes on Highway 1 out to Chilliwack.
The issue of highway capacity in the Fraser Valley is not a new one with mayors in the area often lobbying the provincial and federal governments for funding to get it done.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz was part of a group of mayors earlier this year calling for exactly that, stating that she hears frequently about the issue from constituents.
“They’re frustrated with driving, they’re frustrated with spending time away from their family and their home and losing time to enjoy a peaceful lifestyle while they’re bumper to bumper on the highway,” she said in a CBC report in January.
Not everyone, however, agrees and some experts in planning saying more lanes will not ease congestion.
The high cost of making Highway 1 six lanes would be a waste, according to Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s former planning director.
“If your goal is to have more people drive, then widening the highway will achieve that goal; if the goal is to lessen congestion, widening the highway will fail at that goal and it will be a very expensive failure,” Toderian said in an interview with the Abbotsford News in 2017.
Toderian said there is no avoiding the phenomenon known as “induced demand”: build it and they will come.
It’s a counter-intuitive concept, but Toderian says there’s good evidence for it.
At least one study, published in 2011 by economists Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner, appears to back him up. They found that when U.S. cities expanded freeways, traffic increased and congestion did not improve.
But for Martin and those stuck on those two lanes on a daily commute or a holiday weekend or just doing their job in transportation, expansion is a long-awaited need.
- with files from the Abbotsford News