Much of the South Fraser Perimeter Road corridor is still covered by either sand or gravel. But a large section in Surrey from 136 Street (above) to 176 Street is to be paved this fall and will be open to traffic by December.

Much of the South Fraser Perimeter Road corridor is still covered by either sand or gravel. But a large section in Surrey from 136 Street (above) to 176 Street is to be paved this fall and will be open to traffic by December.

Surrey part of South Fraser Perimeter Road opens in December

Trucks expected to divert to new four-lane highway from other routes, reducing congestion

Traffic congestion in north Surrey should ease considerably by the end of this year, when a big section of the South Fraser Perimeter Road opens.

About a third of the route – from 136 Street to 176 Street – is now slated to open by December and Gateway program executive director Geoff Freer predicts lots of trucks will shift onto it, unclogging other major arteries in Surrey.

“I think people will notice it immediately in terms of the trucks,” he said.

The expected opening date was revealed in the transportation ministry’s service plan, released with the provincial budget.

Many big rigs heading to industrial sites – such as Fraser Surrey Docks, CNRail’s intermodal yard near 176 Street and business parks near Scott Road or King George Boulevard – currently travel through Surrey on 104 Avenue and King George.

“A lot of that traffic will start to use this portion of the South Fraser Perimeter Road right away,” Freer said.

“It’s going to be the route of choice for trucks to get to CN or Fraser Surrey Docks or to the border or to Highway 1.”

Freer said work on the $1.26-billion perimeter road continues to be on time and on budget.

Gravel has been put down on a large section of the route east of the Port Mann and paving is expected to be underway by early fall.

Freer said the transportation ministry’s decision to advance pre-load sections of the route in 2008 to compact areas with soft soils is working well.

No exact opening date has been set yet.

The new Port Mann Bridge also opens in December.

Because it will be tolled, a significant amount of Highway 1 traffic is also expected to shift onto the perimeter road to cross the Pattullo Bridge for free.

Motorists westbound on the perimeter road will initially access the Pattullo via Bridgeview Drive, but Freer said they will also be able to use the Tannery Road interchange once the rest of the corridor to the southwest is open.

The entire South Fraser Perimeter Road, running 40 kilometres from 176 Street to Deltaport, is slated to open by the end of 2013.

Trucks are expected to make up nearly 30 per cent of the estimated traffic volume of 25,000 to 30,000 vehicles per day.

The four-lane route will not be free of traffic lights, at least not initially.

The Surrey section will open next winter with two sets of traffic lights where it intersects Bridgeview Drive and at the intersection of 176 Street and 104 Avenue.

Further southwest in Delta, traffic on the perimeter road will stop for lights at Nordel Way and at Tilbury.

Those intersections are all being preloaded to allow for future upgrades to free-flowing interchanges with on and off ramps, Freer said.

The SFPR route was the target of a two-week occupation by protesters last year and a court challenge that sought to block the road from paving over ancient aboriginal sites.

A transportation ministry spokesperson said the plaintiffs have taken no recent steps to advance the court action, which has had no effect on construction or the completion schedule.

Critics of the project fear it will threaten Burns Bog or other wildlife habitat areas and increase pollution in nearby neighbourhoods.Twitter: @jeffnagel