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Make Prince Rupert the gateway, say Deltaport opponents

Prime Minister Stephen Harper stopped in Surrey yesterday to officially launch construction on the South Fraser Perimeter Road -- a four-lane expressway that will link the Deltaport to the Trans-Canada Highway.

A group of protesters chanting "Don't want it! Don't need it!" gathered outside the Surrey docks where the press conference took place, reported Surrey Now.

The road itself is a billion dollar project (of which the federal government will contribute $365 million) and part of the much larger and controversial Gateway project.

In a press release, Gordon Campbell stated the road will streamline the movement of goods and ensure "we can tap into the trade opportunities with the Asia-Pacific."

Don Hunt, head of Delta's Sunbury neighborhood association, spoke to The Tyee before Harper's event.

He said there are "a dozen different reasons why the project shouldn't go ahead," one of which is the fact that it’s in an environmentally sensitive area -- home to Burns Bog and farmland.

Hunt also said the road and Deltaport expansion are not wanted, or needed. He thinks the "gateway" to Asia should be in Prince Rupert.

There, plans are underway to quadruple the size of the port facilities by 2014.

Barry Bartlett, corporate communications director for the Prince Rupert Port Authority, said container traffic has increased by 280 per cent in the first three-quarters of this year.

Bartlett wouldn't comment on whether he thought federal and provincial spending on Deltaport was a good idea.

He said that funding was "still in the works" for phase two of the Prince Rupert expansion, which is estimated to cost $650 million (about as much as the province will have to cough up for the South Fraser Perimeter Road alone.)

"We're getting containers from Yokohama, Japan to Chicago in about twelve days," said Bartlett.

"That's considered very, very, very good."

Bartlett says part of the reason is because Prince Rupert is geographically closer to Asia than Vancouver, but also because the port is able to quickly offload containers directly onto a train.

"The rail line is less than 200 meters from the ship," he said.

"We've eliminated the use of trucks."

The South Fraser Perimeter Road will extend 40 kilometers through Delta and Surrey along the Fraser River, linking the port with Highways 1, 99 and 91.

Colleen Kimmett reports regularly for the Hook.

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