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A controversial quarry looks set to head to Abbotsford citizens for input
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Monday, March 29, 2021
Welcome to Week 2!
Hi! We’re back for a second week. Thanks for the great first week and the terrific show of support. Many of you have generously asked how you can help. Right now, the biggest thing you can do to help propel us forward is actually pretty easy. There is no mountain-climbing required. The most helpful thing is just to forward this newsletter along and share our social media posts when you think they will interest your friends or family. That's it. It might seem small, but it’s the best way to help more people learn about us. And you can do it without putting on pants, so it's a win-win. Thanks for helping. —Tyler Olsen, Managing Editor
 
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Widening Highway 1 to Abbotsford could cost in excess of $1 billion 📸  Tyler Olsen
Billion-dollar price-tag for Fraser Valley highway widening
Widening Highway 1 to Whatcom Road in Abbotsford could cost more than $1 billion, according to an internal government estimate obtained exclusively by The Current.

The megaproject would span 24 kilometres, but nearly half the projected cost could be consumed by a short 5-kilometre stretch of road with a potential half-billion-dollar price tag, the documents show.

The figures are included in a memo prepared in April of 2019 by the deputy director of the Ministry of Transportation’s south coast regional office. The projections were completed prior to the NDP’s promise in 2020 to widen the highway to Abbotsford, and before the Whatcom Road terminus was included in the mandate letter of Bowinn Ma, BC’s minister of state for infrastructure. The Current reported last week that the province has set an ambitious 2026 completion goal for the project.

Work is already underway to widen the highway to 264th Street, but the billion-dollar figures don’t include that stretch of road. The 2019 documents caution that only "initial planning" for the Abbotsford segment had been completed. In response to questions by The Current, a provincial spokesperson said planning work currently underway would determine the project’s final budget and projected cost.

The documents predict it could cost around $400 million to widen the highway from 264th to Mt. Lehman Road. That works out to about $33 million per kilometre.
The next segment, a 6.5km stretch between Mt. Lehman and McCallum roads, could cost $250 million—about $38 million per kilometre. That would include replacing the Peardonville overpass.

But it was the final stretch, between McCallum and Whatcom roads, that seems likely to drive the price beyond the billion-dollar mark.

That 5km stretch could cost a staggering $500 million to upgrade—a cost of $100 million each kilometre. The figure reflects the need to replace the Whatcom overpass, the interchange with Highway 11/Sumas Way, and the nearby overpass across two rail lines. The combined projected total for the entire length of the project adds up to about $1.1 billion.

The widening also means a large bill will be on the way for the City of Abbotsford—and its taxpayers—because municipalities are asked to fund the cost of interchanges. Although the city will avoid the bill for the Sumas Way interchange because it involves two provincial highways, it will still have to cover the cost of a new interchange at Whatcom Road and a new Peardonville overpass. Each overpass is likely to cost the city tens of millions of dollars.

The province has not promised to widen the highway for another 31km to Chilliwack, but the cost projections hint at the large cost of doing so. (Any such expansion would also require a new Vedder Canal crossing.)

See the documents.
 
Mounties are seeking information on a Chilliwack hit-and-run 📸  Ceri Breeze / Shutterstock
Need to Know
🚓  Chilliwack RCMP are looking for witnesses or video after a hit-and-run left a 23-year-old man with life-threatening injuries. [RCMP]

🆘  A fundraiser is raising money for Greta Loewen, an 11-year-old Abbotsford girl who survived bone cancer but has been left paralyzed following surgery.


👀  Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld told people on a private Facebook group to pull their kids out of public school. [Press Progress]

 
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The Agenda
PUBLIC INPUT SOUGHT ON CONTROVERSIAL GRAVEL QUARRY
A plan to restart operations at a controversial gravel quarry is going to Abbotsford council later today. The Quadling Road proposal has drawn criticism from neighbours and bird-lovers, with the former citing environmental effects and the latter pointing to a rare Peregrine Falcon breeding site. The operators say mining is necessary to decrease safety risks associated with the site. The city looks looks likely to refer the proposal to a public information meeting.

FOUR POSITIVE AT CGH and ARH
There are now active COVID-19 outbreaks at both Chilliwack General and Abbotsford Regional hospitals. The outbreaks were announced on back-to-back days. Fraser Health said that at both hospitals, four patients on a single unit tested positive. The Current will be seeking more information today on whether more transmission has been detected.

OVERDOSE DEATHS CONTINUE
At least 25 people died from illicit drug overdoses in the Fraser Valley through the first two months of 2021, according to the BC Coroners Service. Abbotsford had 13 deaths, Chilliwack had 7, and Langley had 5. Figures for those smaller communities with less than 5 deaths are not available.
 
 
COVID latest
We will be closely watching today for an update on COVID-19 cases in British Columbia. On Friday, the province announced its third-largest daily case count of the entire pandemic. The trajectory of new cases, and the specter of a subsequent flood of people into hospitals, will raise questions as to how the province will slow the spread of the virus and new variants. [BCCDC COVID data]

Fraser Health

  • New cases: 438 Friday / 369 average (up from 312 one week ago)
  • 6 active outbreaks at hospitals / 1 active outbreak in long-term care
BC
  • New cases: 908 Friday / 708 average (up from 560 one week ago)
  • 294 in hospital (up from 292 one week ago)
  • 3 new deaths / 1,449 total deaths
News

 
 
Around Town
💁🏽‍♂️  The Abbotsford Food Bank is seeking donations to help make Easter hampers for those in need. Only $21 provides a hamper for a family.

👶🏼 The Mission B.C. Mother Goose Program for infants and toddlers starts April 12 and will be held outdoors this year. Registration is now open.

 
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Circle Back
Missed a previous newsletter? Catch up on what you may have missed.
  • A local grocery worker reveals how companies, customers and colleagues are dealing with the pandemic [March 26]
  • A First Nation takes the City of Abbotsford to court over the expropriation of land near a sacred site [March 25]
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