Motorists who use Highway 91 may get a long-promised interchange at 72 Avenue to replace the traffic lights there that often cause long back-ups.
The federal and provincial governments have pledged up to $10 million each, while the rest of the $30-million highway improvement project would be funded through local contributions.
“This new interchange along Highway 91 will help relieve congestion,” said Don Fast, the federal minister for international trade and Abbotsford MP.
There’s no timeline for beginning work on the project, which promises a free flow of traffic on Highway 91 and to and from 72 Avenue.
Delta officials haven’t yet signed off on it because Delta council and Metro Vancouver must first decide on whether to approve MK Delta Lands controversial proposal for an 89-acre mixed-use development at the intersection.
MK Delta Lands has offered to pay for Delta’s share of the interchange, but Delta Chief Adminstrative Officer George Harvie said final land-use decisions on the development are at least a year away.
He said actual interchange construction could take another three years, depending on soil conditions.
If MK Delta Lands’ project was ultimately rejected, he said, the municipality could still decide to fund the interchange itself.
Burns Bog Conservation Society President Eliza Olson said she fears the offer by the developer to pay for the interchange and end one of the region’s most persistent traffic jams amounts to an inducement that could sway Delta council’s land-use decision.
“Is this a wink-wink, nudge-nudge way of opening up development for MK?” she asked.
Olson argues both the development and the proposed interchange will harm the bog, releasing more carbon into the atmosphere.
“There’s no way they can do it without eating into the bog,” she said.
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said the interchange is important because southbound vehicles waiting to turn east onto 72 Avenue can back up well past the left-turn lanes.
“It’s getting to be a dangerous situation,” she said. “We’ve needed something there ever since the Alex Fraser Bridge was built.”
But Jackson predicts MK’s offer won’t sway her council in deciding the merits of the development.
“This would not taint my thinking about MK,” Jackson said. “I think we should be going ahead with [the interchange] anyway. I don’t see the two issues as married together at all.”
Harvie said the designs he’s seen would keep the new interchange within the highway right-of-way already held by the province, and would not impact protected bog land.
A previous offer of federal grant money for the interchange expired several years ago and the project was shelved at that time.