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Township not interested in public hearing on Mufford overpass

A majority vote by Township council killed the opportunity for public discourse on the overpass proposal.

Taxpayers deserve another opportunity to have one final say on the Mufford overpass, Township Councillor Kim Richter argued on Monday afternoon.

Township taxpayers will contribute $9 million towards the $52 million project.

“We owe it to the people who are paying for this,” Richter said.

“This overpass will substantially change the face of the community,” she said, adding that the cost “is precisely why we should be consulting with the people.”

Richter had the support of Councillors Bob Long, Charlie Fox and David Davis for a public hearing style meeting, but a majority vote killed the opportunity for public discourse with council.

The Township handed over responsibility for the Mufford Crescent railway overpass to the provincial government several years ago, and in September council rejected a call for a meeting along the lines of a public hearing.

But council agreed at that time to ask the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to provide copies of the comments made by the public at an open house two weeks earlier.

At that September meeting, then-mayor Rick Green said he supported a meeting because of the controversial nature of the overpass, and how explosive it had been in the community.

“Two open houses do not meet the standard” for community participation, Green argued.

On Monday, council was advised that the ministry will not entertain any more meetings.

Councillor Grant Ward was pleased with that decision. “This is going around in circles. It’s been on our table well in excess of two years,” he said, adding that the whole premise of the overpass is public safety.

The Mufford Crescent railway overpass design was unveiled at the September open houses. The project will necessitate the widening of a portion of Glover Road to four lanes, absorb far less farmland than the most recent plan, and prompt major improvements to 64 Avenue from 204 Street (at the Willowbrook Connector) to 216 Street.

Called the West T Intersection, the overpass will take traffic over the railway tracks at Mufford Crescent, leaving the Langley Bypass railway crossing untouched.

The overpass will contain a loop north of the existing Mufford/Glover junction that will funnel traffic to southbound and northbound Glover Road.

The overpass and related road works will add several new traffic lights. These include one on Mufford Crescent where 62 Avenue will be extended to form a junction; at the loop, at Glover Road and 64 Avenue, and at 64 Avenue at 216 Street.

There have been several open houses, but no meetings at which the public can quiz council. Some councillors suggested that a meeting along the lines of a public hearing may give the public false hope that council can make changes.

“It’s not our project,” Ward said. “Why are we meddling?”

“When we are elected we are elected to make decisions, not act as demigods,” Richter replied.

Davis said that the overpass has been a bone of contention, and as the community’s pipeline to Victoria, council can do something.

But Councillor Steve Ferguson disagreed.

“There has been significant public input. The public has not been left in the dark,” he said.

Mayor Jack Froese warned that a public hearing might not only delay the project, but jeopardize funding partners and deadlines.

The overpass is part of $360 million program to improve rail connections to Roberts Bank in Delta.