Opinion

196 Street overpass needs to open soon

Why is a transportation project that costs millions of dollars sitting idle — completed but unused?

The 196 Street overpass over the railway tracks and Highway 10 appears to have been complete for at least a month. The new connecting roadway and overpass has been paved, all lines are painted and traffic lights at both ends of the new route are working.

The lights have been in operation for a month. Traffic on 56 Avenue occasionally has to stop for a red light, where there is no cross traffic, as the street south of 56 Avenue is also closed.

That closure is understandable. The 54 Avenue overpass is nearly complete, but the 192 Street overpass and connecting road links are not complete. It doesn’t make sense to open the 54 Avenue overpass yet, and opening 196 Street south of 56 Avenue would simply funnel traffic into that area.

However, there is appears to be no justification for not opening 196 Street north of 56. It would offer another viable option to drivers who are increasingly stuck waiting for trains to pass. In the past month, many trains have been going slower than usual, due to track work, although speeds seem to be back to normal now.

Whether they move at the regular track speed or more slowly, each time a train passes through Langley’s busy commercial area, traffic is impacted.

During the day, lines from delayed traffic on 200 Street and Fraser Highway are often lengthy.

I spoke with Langley City’s administrator Francis Cheung on Monday to try and get some answers.

He said that there are still some underground wiring issues being dealt with on the overpass, which would impact lighting. The work is almost complete, and after final inspection, the overpass and road will open.

He expects it will be open by early June, likely in about two weeks.

It is not being held up due to the  train advance warning system that is to be placed along many local streets. Cheung said that system will be put in place after the Mufford overpass opens, which will likely be sometime next year.

For people who are travelling from the south side of the tracks to the north, the 196 Street overpass will be a great possibility for getting to the Willowbrook area. It will be far less congested than 200 Street and Fraser Highway, even when there are no trains passing.

People overseeing this project must remember that  millions of tax dollars, taken from local taxpayers by all levels of government, have paid for this new overpass and the two others that are part of the combo project. When the overpass and connecting roads are finished, they need to be opened.

There should be no waiting for politicians to snip ribbons, or for a fancy traffic warning system to be in place. Those things can come later.

People in this area who could make use of this new road system need to be vigilant and ensure that this overpass opens as soon as possible.

Tax dollars should be put to work as soon as possible, and not tied up in excuses.

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