The case of the moving metropolis

The Fraser Valley's road signs can't keep track of Vancouver. And one Twitter poster has had enough. (OK. It was the author of this story.)

By Tyler Olsen | July 16, 2021 |10:24 pm

The Fraser Valley’s silly highway signs aren’t long for this world.

You may not have noticed. You probably shouldn’t have noticed. But there is a problem with a handful of signs along Highway 1 between Bridal Falls and Abbotsford: Vancouver seems to move. And as it appears to move, it demonstrates the hodge-podge way distances were once measured for the much-used distance signs on BC’s highways. In the Fraser Valley, many don’t actually measure the distance to Vancouver at all.

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First, though, the evidence:

As one passes the westbound Rosedale exit and approaches Chilliwack from the east, a highway distance sign appears to your right. It says Chilliwack is 18km away and Vancouver is 119km. One can surmise that the 2 cities are 101km apart.

But drive a little further and another sign appears. This one says Chilliwack is 13km away, while Vancouver is just 108km.

One doesn’t have to be a math whiz to spot the problem. You have remained on the same highway, but seemingly gotten 5 kilometres closer to Chilliwack and 11 kilometres closer to Vancouver. The cities are no longer 101km apart. Now they are just 95km away from one another.

A bit further down the road, a similar situation exists between Abbotsford and Chilliwack. The difference in distances between the 2 cities is 72km on one sign, and 66 on another.

The strange situation was pointed out last year on Twitter, where a Chilliwack resident (yes, the same guy writing this article) speculated on the cause of the conflicting signs. That well-read Twitter thread prompted a helpful clarification from the Ministry of Transportation. The ministry’s Twitter account explained the signs had gone up at different times, and that they reflect what was once a lack of consistency in the actual target destination.

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“Distances can vary depending on what the person actually measured to at the time—could have been city hall, courthouse, museum, public library, or even an airport,” it was reported.

In the case of the Fraser Valley signs, one pair of signs measured the distance to the centre of Vancouver. The other measured to Vancouver International Airport—an airport that isn’t actually located in Vancouver, nor typically accessed via the same routes used by those going to Vancouver proper.

“But hopefully you can rest a bit easier knowing we have improved our practice to avoid this type of situation—now, we only measure distance to a city centre point in order to achieve consistency,” the ministry tweeted.

The Current recently checked to see what was to become of the signs. The ministry now says the inconsistent signs will be replaced this year, with new, updated, and consistent displays. It also says it has “recently” changed how it measures distances to avoid the valley situation. Now, all distances are taken only from city centres.

For now the signs remain.

Tyler Olsen

Managing Editor at Fraser Valley Current

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