Light rail should follow highway widening, Abbotsford mayor says

Braun says Highway 1 must be widened 'yesterday'

The current provincial government must follow through on their predecessors’ plans to widen Highway 1 from Langley to Abbotsford, but should also think about running light rail to the central Fraser Valley, Mayor Henry Braun says.

In October, the Ministry of Transportation cast doubt on whether the new government would follow through with the BC Liberals’ pledge to eventually six-lane Highway 1 into Abbotsford.

Braun said that work needs to proceed as soon as possible.

“We need to widen Highway 1; it needs to happen, like, yesterday,” he said Thursday. “I am still optimistic that this government will do the right thing.”

But Braun said the province should also start making a plan to build an LRT line to Abbotsford, potentially down the median of Highway 1. Plans are already afoot to run light rail from Surrey to Langley, which will alter the regional transit landscape. The next step, Braun said, is developing a long-term plan to extend that line to Abbotsford, whether down Highway 1 or along Fraser Highway.

“Unless someone puts this in a 10-year capital plan, it’s never going to happen.”

Highway 1 could pose a challenge to LRT construction in some points because of the narrowness of the median and the need to accommodate existing overpasses, which frequently are among the costliest elements of highway projects. Future widening projects could further hinder such plans if not built with light rail in mind.

Braun said he has advocated running LRT down the median for years, and noted that, before he retired 15 years ago, the company he ran had been involved in such projects in Calgary, Edmonton and elsewhere.

The priority, though, remains the widening of the highway.

While transit advocates have been critical of such plans, saying they will become clogged as more vehicles hit the road, Braun said that a wider highway is vital to move not only cars and trucks, but also to allow for rapid-transit buses to move between Abbotsford and its western neighbours.

“There’s no point in beefing up our bus transit on a two-lane highway,” he said.

While in power, the BC Liberals had promised to widen Highway 1 to 264th Street in Langley and, eventually, all the way to Whatcom Road in Abbotsford. But last fall, the government suggested that might not take place.

“Future Highway 1 corridor improvements are being looked at as part of the broader assessment of the transportation network,” a ministry spokesperson wrote to Black Press at the time. “Any future projects on Highway 1 will be announced at a future date.”