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B.C. cabinet ministers visiting Maple Ridge

Dalton -
Dalton
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Three cabinet ministers from Victoria will be visiting Maple Ridge over the next few weeks, one of them to look at a traffic bottleneck on Lougheed Highway.

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone is to stop by in the next week and look at the last two-lane section of Lougheed Highway, between 266th and 287th streets.

“We’re going out to show him that,” said Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton.

“Actually, he brought it up. I think he wants to have his finger on the pulse … because it’s definitely something on the radar for the ministry. It is a priority.”

Dalton said engineers have already surveyed the area, with the aim of widening to four lanes. But that portion of the road is in tough terrain and is complicated by the presence of a tower in the area.

“It definitely needs four-laning,” Dalton said.

According to a ministry traffic count in February 2012, a total of 1,138 vehicles passed through the 272nd Street intersection eastbound and 741 went through westbound.

While the ministry acknowledged traffic volumes are growing, so far there have been no complaints from the public or district about congestion, the ministry said earlier.

Stone will also check out the remaining two-lane stretch of the Lougheed Highway from Silverdale to Mission.

He’ll also visit the Florence Lake Forest Service Road, for which the government has already spent $32,500 for design plans for an upgrade.

Last year, the provincial government announced $5 million for rerouting and improving a 12-kilometre stretch of the road leading to the proposed Tim Horton Children’s Foundation camp. A new campsite has also opened up in the area, increasing tourism potential.

Improving the road that leads to the Mission Interpretative Forest was identified in 2012 as a top priority for job generation, as part of the B.C. Jobs Plan.

Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin said he wasn’t aware that Stone was visiting, but he’d like to be on the tour.

Daykin said he’d also mention the project that he, along with the mayors of Pitt Meadows and Port Coquitlam have been pushing for TransLink to create – a RapidBus connection to the new Evergreen Line in Coquitlam. The mayors announced in January they’d cooperate on funding a study for such a service, then would present it to TransLink.

But Daykin thinks Stone would likely refer him to TransLink.

There has to be a balance between building roads and transit, added Daykin, citing a road-pricing project in Sweden that allocates equally toll revenues to transit and roads.

What hasn’t been decided is whether a RapidBus route would follow Dewdney Trunk Road or Lougheed Highway.

Dalton said the area’s population has to increase in order for better transit to be offered. But he’d like to see a bus connection between Mission and Maple Ridge.

“To me, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that there isn’t at least something between the two.”

He said much has been done for transportation and transit, such as the Port Mann-Highway 1 Improvement Project and the Evergreen SkyTrain line. Maple Ridge commuters have been helped by the former, Dalton said.

“We’ve done a fair amount of work.”

Following Stone’s visit, Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk speaks to the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce on June 26.

“As far as post-secondary education, I think that’s something of interest to our region,” Dalton said.

He doesn’t expect an announcement, however.

Virk’s appearance comes after an April education forum in Maple Ridge during which the government gave Invest North Fraser a $110,900 grant to study labour trends in the area and to set out the options for a post-secondary institute in the Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission area.

The money, from the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, was given as part of the drive towards getting a multi-program school involving several universities to open in Maple Ridge.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett will also visit the area, June 11, to check out progress on the Ruskin Dam seismic upgrades.

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