Construction of the Highway 99/16 Avenue interchange is officially underway.
The project was launched Friday morning at a groundbreaking ceremony attended by Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, Transportation Minister Mary Polak, MLAs Gordon Hogg (Surrey-White Rock), Stephanie Cadieux (Surrey-Panorama) and Dave Hayer (Surrey-Tynehead), contractors and a phalanx of media.
The $24-million project will see highway on- and off-ramps added to 16 Avenue, and the busy thoroughfare widened to four lanes between Highway 99 and King George Boulevard.
The City of Surrey and TransLink will contribute $7.2 million to the project.
The new interchange is expected to better accommodate cross-border traffic and also improve connectivity between South Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford, as well as divert trucks from 32 Avenue.
“I don’t have to tell you all how fast Surrey is growing,” said Polak, who is also Langley’s MLA.
“Infrastructure like this is desperately needed – not just as a commuter route, but also as a trucking route, getting goods to the Canada-U.S. border.”
Phase 1 of the project is to include the demolition of the existing underpass and construction of a new six-lane structure. Langley company Tybo Contracting has been awarded the $7.9-million contract.
The second phase – a contract for which is to be awarded in April – will include the construction of the four ramps.
The interchange is expected to be complete by October 2014.
Watts said the project was vital to the continued growth of Surrey, especially with regard to moving goods through the city and the entire Metro Vancouver region.
“We have 700,000 trucks moving across the border each year,” she said. “When we look at how we move goods through the region, it’s important to look at (this kind) of infrastructure… it’s crucial.”
The new highway interchange has not been without detractors, however.
When the project was first announced last September, residents of nearby Cherry Brook mobile home park – at 16 Avenue and 162 Street – were upset the southbound off-ramp would run directly behind the park.
“I’m a bit concerned it will devalue the property,” Cherry Brook resident Pat O’Connor said at the time. “Can you imagine the traffic on 16th? It’s going to be awful.”
After residents’ concerns were heard by the project’s design consultants R.F. Binnie and Associates, the proposal was amended to include new left-turn lanes on either side of the overpass, including one into the mobile home park.