When most people think about highway and overpass construction, the ability of fish to swim up or downstream usually doesn’t enter the picture.
But a new six-lane overpass and interchange at 16 Avenue and Highway 99 does more than facilitate human transportation in South Surrey, according to Jay Porter, senior project manager for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s South Coast Region – it’s also “fish-passable” as well.
Porter was present for the hastily-called official opening of the $24-million freeway interchange last Wednesday, where local and regional politicians made much of the new structure’s ability to accommodate growing cross-border travel and reduce traffic congestion by providing on- and off-ramps to Highway 99.
The new interchange also features signalized crossings for pedestrians and cyclists, and wider sidewalks, they added.
But in a side-note – following speeches by Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Stephanie Cadieux, Surrey-Tynehead MLA Amrik Virk, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and TransLink board member Barry Forbes – Porter acknowledged it was a point of pride that the two-year project has helped fish habitat.
“We’ve done some really good environmental work here,” he told Peace Arch News while discussing the replacement of the original two-lane overpass.
“The interchange is now fish-passable. Before, there used to be steel culverts under the highway for Carlson Creek, but the outlets were higher than the creek bed.”
Construction of the new overpass and installation of sound baffles included concrete box culverts with a gravel and rock bed, Porter said.
“This allows the fish to get through and use the habitat,” he said, adding that city work on 14 Avenue will rectify culverts there to make the stream fish passable.
“It will open up a whole area for fish habitat.”
After a consultation process to resolve access issues raised by local residents in 2012, first phase of construction work started with demolition of the old overpass on April 12 last year.
The new bridge was completed and opened at the end of August 2013, starting the second phase, which included noise barriers and widening of 16 Avenue east of Highway 99, in addition to freeway access.
Also attending the opening – announced only the day before – were White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Coun. Bill Lawrence and South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce executive director Cliff Annable. Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg, whose riding is home to the interchange, was unable to attend.
Cadieux – representing Transport Minister Todd Stone – said the project is expected to reduce congestion regionally.
“We’ve all seen significant growth in this area in the last few years, and in order to see that we’re ready for future growth (the project has been) a high priority for residents and businesses of White Rock, Surrey and Langley,” she said.