A $24-million interchange project between Highway 99 and 16th Avenue kicked off earlier today following a groundbreaking ceremony featuring a who's who of local politicians.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, Transportation Minister Mary Polak and local MLAs Gordon Hogg, Stephanie Cadieux and Dave Hayer were all on hand at the South Surrey site to take the first few shovels, kicking off the project.
The first part of the work will be done by Langley's Tybo Contracting Ltd. and will include the demolition of the current underpass, the creation of a new six-lane structure and the four-lane widening of 16th Avenue between Highway 99 and King George Boulevard.
Phase two of the project will consist of constructing all four ramps and will be awarded sometime in April, with the total project expected to be completed for October 2014.
"Over 700,000 trucks move through this important transportation corridor every year," said Watts. "(This project) will alleviate congestion on 32nd Avenue, connect all three border crossings, and improve access to Campbell Heights, one of the region's largest developing industrial areas, as well as provide a direct link to the Abbotsford International Airport."
The exchange was announced back in October by the provincial government as a means to reduce traffic congestion in the area at the King George and 32nd Avenue interchanges.
"This project will dramatically reduce congestion, improve air quality and increase safety for families and motorists," said Polak. "People walking or cycling along 16th Avenue will be able to do so safely, encouraging a shift to more active, healthier lifestyles."
For White Rock Coun. Larry Robinson, the new interchange was a welcomed project, as it means easier access to White Rock for people coming from the freeway.
"If people miss the off-ramp there to get to White Rock they can take this one and still get here, so it's also going to be good for us," said Robinson.
However, Robinson was also aware of what may become something of an issue down the line, following the interchange's completion as 16th Avenue is the divider between White Rock and Surrey.
"North Bluff is going to become a major artery. We're going to have to work together with Surrey on controlling traffic because we have a school, Earl Marriot just up the street, people crossing and a lot of people in White Rock cross that street to go to Semiahmoo Mall so it's just going to increase volume."