Walnut Grove residents hope for interchange aid

Locals will meet with ministry officials about 216th Street’s interchange Tuesday.

Residents near Walnut Grove’s 216th Street are trying to speed up the construction of a sound-barrier wall as construction continues on the controversial highway interchange.

Overpass opponent Linda Nash said she and a group of locals will be meeting with staff from the provincial Ministry of Transportation on Tuesday.

“They are not meeting with us to change the project… but to at least review with us what the plans are,” Nash said.

The residents hope to bring up the sound attentuation wall and tree plantings. If possible, they’d like to get them into place soon, rather than after the project is finished.

The new highway interchange was announced in 2015, just prior to the federal election. It has been long planned, but the actual decision to move forward took many residents by surprise.

They lobbied for more than a year to have the planned interchange scrapped, modified, or even moved. They opposed the project because of the new traffic it will bring to a largely residential area. Two elementary schools are on 216th Street north of the highway as well.

But the provincially-run project began construction earlier this year. Local officials have been calling for it for years, and it was on display in the 2007 open houses and hearings about the Gateway Project highway upgrades.

Now residents are hoping to ameliorate issues of noise, safety, and pollution.

One issue now, said Nash, is the large number of dump trucks rumbling down 216th Street to the construction site.

“They will even shake my house a tiny wee bit,” Nash said, adding that she doesn’t even live directly adjacent to the main road.

They will also be bringing up traffic calming at Tuesday’s meeting, Nash said.

She also expects them to continue lobbying Township council to prevent 216th Street north of the interchange from becoming a truck route.

Some residents opposed the project, but don’t feel there’s any changes to be made now.

“This was a foregone conclusion,” said Kurt Stoll.

He’s hoping at least that Langley Township can divert the many dump trucks off of 216th Street and onto nearby Telegraph Trail.

“I don’t think the sound wall is going to do anything for us,” said Stoll, another residents whose home backs onto 216th Street.

The interchange is one of the last components of the Gateway Project, which included the widening of the Trans Canada Highway to Langley and the replacement of the Port Mann Bridge.

Both Nash and Stoll said that a number of their neighbours have already sold their homes and moved elsewhere, to get away from the project.

Work is taking place simultaneously on widening the 208th Street overpass.

Both 216th Street and 208th Street overpasses will partly serve the rapidly-expanding Willoughby neighbourhood on the south side of the highway.

Willoughby already has more than 30,000 residents, compared to about 25,000 in Walnut Grove, and a new light industrial district is planned for south of the 216th Street interchange.