Bob Groeneveld has been sharing his Odd Thoughts with Langley readers for the past four decades, give or take a few weeks

Odd Thoughts: Langley transportation history filled with promises, promises, promises

SkyTrain into Langley City may be a bridge to far, as costs are ferried into the future

By Bob Groeneveld

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The thing about promises is that they can last forever.

Or nearly forever.

Because no politician likes to use up really good promises too quickly.

They like to savour them, to appreciate them over time, to peg a tap into their keg for a sample now and again – at an appropriate time – to run them over the tongue and feel the heady effect of crowds of voters mellowing.

And then they bang the bung back into the barrel, to let the promises age more, until they are fully ripe… or perhaps to share another sample, if a taste test suggests they might improve with yet another round of aging.

Ferries, bridges… and now you can add SkyTrain to the list of promises that politicians have enjoyed burying in Langley’s cellars.

Promises of a ferry across the Fraser River, between East Langley and Whonnock or between West Langley and Haney started in the 1920s.

It was a good idea, and government leaders asked government officials to mull over the feasibility of providing scheduled transport across the river. Business owners offered ideas for how private enterprise might provide such a service.

At one point a landing site was chosen on the Maple Ridge side of the river, and financial backing for the project was secured. But no one could agree on a Langley-side landing, and there was no venture capital forthcoming on the south side of the Fraser.

Skip forward about a decade, and the promise was deemed aged enough for another sip.

A ferry landing site was chosen on McMillan Island in 1935, and federal, provincial, and municipal authorities promised that work was almost underway, and by 1937, tenders were called to build the wharf.

But there was nothing happening on the north side of the river.

By the time Maple Ridge decided on a northside landing and Langley had secured someone who could captain a ferry, it was deep into the 1940s… and it turned out that the ferry slip built in 1938 was rotten and useless.

The ferry first promised in the 1920s finally sailed across the Fraser River from Fort Langley to Albion in 1957.

After a few weak-kneed proposals for a bridge from Langley to Maple Ridge – some made years before the ferry service finally landed – a firm promise was made in the 1970s to build that bridge by 1981.

Then, after locations were scouted and costs were estimated, the bung was driven firmly back into the barrel.

But after just a few years of mellowing, out came the bung, and in went the tap… and the bridge would be built by 1991.

Or at least, it certainly would be started by 1991… or at least, maybe.

The Golden Ears Bridge opened in 2009.

This year we have a promise that SkyTrain will be extended right into Langley City.

And this month, the people holding the bung-hammer have estimated the cost.

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