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Fix the Trans Canada between Langley and Hope

Mark Milke: The population of the Lower Mainland has grown. It’s not unreasonable to expect infrastructure to grow with it.
Eric Buermeyer /

Ever had the misfortune to drive the Trans Canada highway from Langley to any point east at any time of day other than 2:00am? You’ve likely had the same experience millions of others do when they travel that 1960s-era highway: How it regularly turns into parking lot, with traffic inching along if at all.

I was reminded just how outdated the # 1 is when I was in Abbotsford for the Labour Day weekend. I flew in Friday at noon, drove down the #1 for just a short scoot between one off-ramp and the next, only to encounter an already clogged artery.

That was midday on Friday just as the long weekend started. My nephew, who works in Langley and planned to join us Friday evening in Abbotsford, texted at 4pm to say the highway was already clogged all the way back to Langley. I encouraged him to skip the drive and meet up with us in Saturday for lunch instead.

I note my recent mild encounter with the plugged-up Trans Canada because I know it’s not unique and daily commuters can no doubt add their own stories.

But I bring it up because I’ve been back and forth between Metro Vancouver and points east ever since I was a kid—and that dates back to the 1970s.

I also recall hitting that highway and its even-then bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way to Expo 86, another marker of how long that highway has been choking commuters and tourists.

The TransCanada highway in Metro Vancouver is not the only symbol of an ideological, anti-automobile reflex. The Massey Tunnel is another choke point and the provincial NDP government canceled the previous BC Liberal government’s long-overdue plans to replace that ancient, beaver-size burrowing under the Fraser River with a bridge.

When I lived in Victoria between 1999 and 2002, I would regularly travel from the Tsawwassen ferry terminal to downtown Vancouver and of course, hit the Massey chokepoint. That was 18 years ago. I thought the tunnel a wee bit tight for the volume of traffic even then, never mind now.

The non-expanded Highway 1 east of Langley and Massey Tunnel are examples of the core problem: Ideological opposition among some to expanded highways and bridges in Metro Vancouver even when needed and when sensible.

When I made my way from Kelowna to Vancouver in 1986, the population of British Columbia was 3 million. Now, it’s over 5.1 million, a 70% increase. In 2002, when I last traversed the Georgia Straight to Tsawwassen and on to downtown Vancouver, Metro Vancouver’s population was just under 2.1 million. It has since added 300,000 more people.

The reason for expanding highways and replacing bridges is in part driven by the simple recognition of population growth. Also, most people in cities have diverse needs – another reason to be sensitive and sympathetic to such expansions.

It is unrealistic to expect a family to ride the SkyTrain and buses across Metro Vancouver to get from suburb to another to get to the kids to hockey and soccer practice on the weekend. It would make no sense to expect a single mother with three kids to manage work and her children by taking only public transit, including for her nighttime work.

To favour sensible expansion of highways and bridges in Metro Vancouver and beyond—the Trans Canada should be eight lanes from Langley to Chilliwack and six lanes to Hope—does not mean one should be enamoured with concrete and black tar.

Vancouver, for example, was right to resist the 1970s trend of cities to bulldoze neighbourhoods in favour of massive freeways that cut out the heart of major North American cities. Instead, taking the Jane Jacobs approach—neighbourhoods and cities should develop organically—has always made more sense.

But supporting sensible limits on where highways should not be, does not equate to agreement with knee-jerk opposition to expanding necessary arteries outside or besides a city. That includes the necessary replacement of the Massey Tunnel and the expansion of the Trans Canada highway, among other projects.

Metro Vancouverites should avoid letting an ideological minority with zero concern for real daily lives continue to dominate the eventual political decisions on such matters.

Mark Milke is an author, columnist, policy analyst and author of six books. His most recent is The Victim Cult: How the culture of blame hurts everyone and wrecks civilizations.


  • In July, Mark Milke looked at calls to defund police (or worse), and saw wrong-headed thinking that ignored several pertinent facts.
  • Last September, Bob Price lauded the people who work through every weather condition imaginable - and then some new ones - to keep the "Highway through Hell" safe.
  • Speaking of last September, right around then, the Massey Tunnel replacement project was scheduled to be halfway done. Instead...yeah, it's a bridge of sighs. Jordan Bateman on the mess straddling the Fraser River.