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Highways shouldn't have lights

It doesn't seem to matter how many times we do it, we still don't learn from our past mistakes.

It doesn't seem to matter how many times we do it, we still don't learn from our past mistakes.

I guess this truism could apply to a great many things in life, but today let's see how it's applicable to highway construction, particularly the issue of interchanges versus intersections.

We all know interchanges, by their very design, are much better at keeping traffic moving than signalized intersections. We also know that interchanges can be significantly more expensive than said intersections, so despite their inherent advantages they're not always the choice of shortsighted, or at least cash-strapped, governments.

There are plenty of examples in these parts alone of how traffic flow is impeded because we're stuck with an intersection, not an interchange. Drivers on highways 17 and 91 are brought to an abrupt halt daily by red lights, which can also be found in a couple of spots on the approach to the George Massey Tunnel.

In fact, back-ups along 62B Street from Tilbury and the Highway 17 exit from northbound Highway 99, which have been making a lot of news lately, are directly attributable to a single traffic light plunked in the middle of an interchange.

You'd think with such in-your-face evidence that the next time government constructed a highway in these parts it would be free of those nasty, traffic-choking intersections. Unfortunately, that's not the case. When the $1 billion South Fraser Perimeter Road opens late next year, the long-awaited east-west route south of the Fraser River, there will be two intersections along the Delta stretch, including one adjacent to the Tilbury industrial area.

The Delta Chamber of Commerce has done an admirable job of trying to bring this obvious design flaw to the attention of government, but the official line from the folks in charge is that interchanges will be built in those locations when traffic flows deem them to be necessary, which is not anticipated to be until 2020 or later.

I think we all know that if those interchanges aren't built along with the rest of the highway, the chances of them coming at a later date are slim to none. Given that 2020 is just half a dozen years after the highway opens, which is nothing in infrastructure time, it doesn't bode well that Gateway didn't include them in the original design.

For everyone's sake, let's hope they do materialize because the last thing we need is another highway where traffic is forced to come to a standstill.