Engaged in a heated but friendly debate last evening with an engineer who worked on Gateway.
His position: Gateway – the highway widening and new bridge – is serving an already existing need, namely the growth that has occurred south of the Fraser. Cars aren’t going away, even if we have to switch to electricity. Land use is in the hands of municipalities, and not a responsibility of the Gateway project.
Next day, I opened the Sun to the business pages:
A new shopping mall planned for an eight-hectare site near Abbotsford’s Mount Lehman interchange will be a major retail draw for Fraser Valley residents, according to the city’s mayor.
“The potential regional draw for that centre is enormous,” Abbotsford Mayor George Peary said in an interview about the $170-million, 600,000-square-foot Shape Properties development, dubbed Abby Lane.
“It’s huge and it’s got amazing freeway access. I think this will be the largest mall in the region. It will be relatively easy for people to get there from Langley, Chilliwack and Mission. Millions travel that freeway and they’re all potential customers.”
Opponents of commercial sprawl say the new plaza is an example of the type of retail they expect will pop up all along the highway because of the provincial government’s Gateway Program to add lanes to Highway 1 and double the size of the bridge.
I confess, I get annoyed by highway planners and advocates who ignore, discount or wash their hands of the consequences of their projects, especially when the evidence is so obvious. Highways generate car-dependent urban form, which then produces the congestion that the highways and arterials were meant to address. It’s a self-defeating cycle they seem not to acknowledge. (Which means that TransLink , Metro and the municipalities must have a pro-active startegy to offset the consequences. Otherwise we get more and more Abby Lanes.)
So, as always, I asked him this question: name me one good example of a place that had successfully addressed congestion with more roads and bridges. A place that can serve as a model for what we are doing. A place you want the South of the Fraser to become more like.
No answer from the engineer.