TttF, and the Transport debate

I really dig Tenth to the Fraser. Jen, Briana, Will and Jocelyn the gang over there do an incredible job in keeping the conversation going in New Westminster, whether they are talking politics, business, environment, or community events. The great part is that they avoid being one-dimensional like some lesser local blogs, and instead have a diversity of topics, and a diversity of speakers. I am excited about their new series covering aspects of the upcoming Civic Election. They fill a big gap in New Westminster public discourse, and they should be read every day by everyone who lives in the Royal City (does that make me an “elitist”?).

I’m mostly gushing right now in order to call attention to Matt Laird’s recent two-part series on the UBE and the future of the North Fraser Perimeter Road. Matt, ever the muck-raker and pot-stirrer, raises some of the uncomfortable questions about the dream of a “seamless 4-lane truck route” through New Westminster. The problems with this dream can be broken down onto 5 points:

1) There is no room on Front Street for 4 lanes of truck traffic, without moving rails (the railway won’t agree to reduce shunting noise or modify level crossings, they won’t agree to pedestrian overpasses to the new Park, you think they are going to agree to give up real estate!?!), or chopping off the front of a couple of buildings (InterUrban, the new Sally Ann, and the Keg/Train Station for starters). The Parkade would also have to go, but I think few will shed a tear for it (although the Downtown businesses will expect the City to replace the lost 700 parking spots)

2) The idea of “stacking” the four lanes is monumentally expensive, complex from an engineering standpoint, and may create issues around the transportation of dangerous goods (which makes it’s utility as a “truck route” limited). Working the stacked road around the rail overpasses at the east end of Front Street would be a challenge, as would designing some sort of interchange at the west end that would bring trucks safely back to grade, work as an intersection for Columbia Street traffic, and not be a blight to the Plaza 88 development, all in a very small footprint.

3) It only serves to move more trucks to Stewardson Way, where they will line up with the cars to get through the Queensborough Bridge spaghetti-bowl. Anyone who drives that intersection west regularly knows the right lane is commonly backed up to 4th, the left lane is full of cars looking for advantageous gaps in the right lane to squeeze in (gaps usually found between big trucks that cannot be as aggressive as cars at blocking queue-jumpers). For the New Westminster residents in Queensborough, their only access to the rest of the City is already backed up with traffic 12 hours of the day with all of the vehicles heading east… and to this mess we want to add more trucks?.

4) Take everything I said about Queensborough, and insert “Columbia and Brunette”.

5) It won’t solve a congestion problem. After the last Translink open house, there was some informal discussion around the NFPR, and I asked one of our City Councilors (I won’t name him here, but his last name rhymes with “Foster Can”) how long it would take for a 4-lane truck route to become just as congested as the current two-lane road, 5 years? Ten? And he admitted, “less than that!” So we want to spend 10 years and more than billion dollars designing and building a road we know will be just as congested as it is now in less than 10 years? That is madness.

It is going to be up to us to make the case to TransLink that this is a colossal waste of money. Your money and my money. When it comes down to it, New West as a municipality may be limited in their ability to stop a regional project if there is strong political pressure to build it (See Delta’s position on the South Fraser Perimeter Road as an example). Up to this point, New West Council has done a good job protecting New Westminster from the unnecessary intrusion of the UBE, but the future of the NFPR will need to be a campaign directed at TransLink and the Province.

The first step in that campaign would be for a strong voice from City Hall to counter the frankly ridiculous comments of the Mayor of Coquitlam.

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