The South Fraser Perimeter Road is now open fully open, providing a major new route that improves traffic flow for truckers and other motorists South of the Fraser.
The new four-lane Highway 17 (the former Highway 17 to Tsawwassen is renamed Highway 17A) connects Deltaport to Highway 1 at 176 Street, with links to all five major crossings of the Fraser River from the Massey Tunnel to the Golden Ears Bridge.
“This new route is a game-changer for industry, commuters and tourists,” Transportation Minister Todd Stone said at the Dec. 21 official opening.
“It will cut commute times for families and make B.C. more competitive by connecting key port and rail facilities with access to borders, the Tsawwassen ferry terminal and the B.C. Interior.”
The ministry estimates motorists will be able to get from Highway 1 in Surrey to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal in just 30 minutes via the SFPR, compared to an hour previously via Highway 10.
The new 37-kilometre truck route, with an 80 kilometre per hour speed limit, is expected to take pressure off Highway 10, which is heavily congested in Langley and Surrey, and pull trucks off other arteries, including River Road.
Originally estimated at $800 million, the project cost soared to $1.26 billion as a result of higher-than-expected costs of land acquisition and environmental mitigation. It was to be complete in 2012, but only partially opened that year, mainly to provide a free route to the Pattullo Bridge for drivers seeking to avoid the Port Mann Bridge toll.
The fully opened route now lets toll-avoiding drivers connect to either the Pattullo, the Alex Fraser Bridge or the Massey Tunnel.
The project was controversial.
Highway expansion opponents camped out for weeks at construction sites in protest and neighbourhood groups raised concerns about pollution and other impacts.
The project also paved over ancient aboriginal archaelogical sites and ran along the edge of Burns Bog.
But Independent Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington said the biggest impact has been the loss of about 1,000 acres of Delta farmland for the SFPR and other related Gateway road and rail upgrades.
It really has had an impact on agriculture,” she said. “Even though some of the irrigation projects that came with it were good for the farmers in east Delta.”
She and other critics fear the new transportation corridor will increase pressure to industrialize more agricultural land.
“I can see a scenario where most of the land in Delta – a mile on either side – will go,” Huntington said. “The big winner is the port and the transportation industry – they’re who it was built for.”
The province forecasts the route will generate 7,000 long-term jobs in Delta and Surrey by fostering industrial development.
Instead of a free-flowing route, the province decided to build the SFPR with traffic lights at three interchanges to avoid the cost of completing additional overpasses and ramps right now that officials said are not yet needed.
Various groups and politicians said that will mean more congestion and slower traffic flows than necessary.
The federal government contributed $365 million to the project.
The opening of the SFPR and also newly built lanes on Highway 1 west of the Port Mann Bridge has meant significant traffic pattern changes for some motorists this month.
SFPR BY THE NUMBERS
– 400,000 tonnes of asphalt used , enough to fill 63 Olympic swimming pools
– 15 overpasses and three interchanges
– 75,000 trees and shrubs planted
– $100 million in environmental and agricultural improvements to migitate impacts
– 30 minutes estimated travel time from Highway 1 in Surrey to Tsawwassen ferry terminal
– 30 minute estimated travel time from South Delta to Maple Ridge via Golden Ears Bridge