Transportation news!

It seems that not all is silent on the transportation front.

Since the furor over the United Boulevard Extension erupted in December, causing Translink to delay plans and ask for their funding deadline to be extended until March, it has been pretty quiet around here. Here we are, halfway to the new deadline, and the public discussion of this issue has all but disappeared. Tenth to the Fraser has expended some energy trying to keep the discussion going in a productive way, with Chris Bryan’s well-considered column, and Matt Laird’s two-part analysis of the real issues with the grey-dotted-line-on-a-map referred to as the North Fraser Perimeter Road. But from Mayor, Council and TransLink? Silence.

That ended this week. We find out that discussions have been going on between TransLink and the City, and apparently, the City is not totally thrilled with where they are going.

This week in New Westminster Council, there were surprise discussions of these negotiations. Surprise, as they did not appear any of the Agendas produced for Monday’s Council meetings, so anyone actually interested in the subject would not know to show up (is this what Voice is complaining about?). Also surprise, as it seems most of the actual discussion took place in closed session, so we don’t have a full understanding of the process, but I will hit that issue later.

Anyone who is interested can download the video of the council meetings courtesy of local rabble-rousers and tech guru Matt Laird. The UBE topic comes up (unannounced, but apparently known to all present) around 1:30:00 on the recording.

Some of the context of the discussions is in the earlier Public Delegations from Dave Nicholson Mary Wilson, and (?) from Brow of the Hill talking about pedestrian safety in the City. As an aside, it is great around 0:35 minutes where Mary talked eloquently about how reactive responses to single pedestrian danger points is missing the point of making the entire transportation system friendlier and safer for pedestrians, to which Councillor Osterman comes back with a recollection of a single incident of pedestrian safety that they took care of…ugh… completely missing the very point Mary made so clearly. Even this was wiped from my consciousness 5 minutes later when Councillor MacIntosh blames pedestrians for wearing too much black… essentially blaming the victim for the crime of not being able to keep your 3000lb steel toy from running into them. I try not to be too critical of our elected officials, but that is a dimwitted comment to make.

Oh, and Councillor Harper referring to a popular search engine as “the Google” is funny.

Then it was on to the surprise UBE discussion. Right off the bat, I need to say that I recognize that negotiations involving potential real estate transactions, financial negotiations with other agencies, and some other fiscally-sensitive issues must be carried out in camera, and this is why the Local Government Act gives the City the power to hold in camera meetings. However, transparency in government is necessary, especially in election years. So here we have aspects of in camera sessions being brought to the public.

Long and short of it: Council, to their credit, said all the right things. They reiterate that their motion in December on the UBE stated that they would not endorse any UBE plans unless they include plans for the entire NFPR, from United Boulevard to New Westminster’s western borders. Apparently Translink brought some proposals to the City in a January 19th letter, and Council was not satisfied. According to Councillor Cote, it was really nothing new, and didn’t address the issues the City raised in December. Councillor McEvoy was even more vociferous, chiding TransLink for attempting to rush the City and for not performing appropriate public consultation back in the fall. I also like his clear message that New Westminster is only 7 square kilometres, all of it built out, and we do not have the free space to accommodate road expansion (This will do doubt be a major argument come Master Transportation Plan time).

Good news is that TransLink is supposed to be back for next weeks Council Meeting (the 14th), so if the UBE interests you, it wouldn’t hurt to show up. Oh, it’s budget night to, so fun all around.

Then there was this news that TransLink is considering not replacing the Patullo, but instead may just refurbish it. This “news release” was strange, in that there was no mention on the TransLink webpage, no obvious press release, just an article by Jeff Nagel for Black Press, and a story on CKNW (a cynic would say directed at Liberal supporters South of the Fraser two weeks before the Premier Falcon Coronation… uh… I mean Liberal Leadership Vote). Regardless, if this announcement marks a change in policy about the Patullo (either from the Province or from TransLink) then the earlier assertion by TransLink that the Front Street / NFPR works would be done as part of the Patullo project means that these changes are back to the drawing board.

This is actually good news for New Westminster. To potential of replacing the Patullo with a larger bridge with more lanes will be another UBE-type debate: increasing the capacity for cars to get into our City without concomitant infrastructure to deal with the traffic once it is in the City, resulting in more traffic, more congestion on our streets, more “rat running”, less pedestrian safety, and a less liveable city. The only difference is that this debate will include Diane Watts, which makes it louder.

Of course, traffic is already anticipated to increase significantly on the Patullo when the tolls for the Port Mann kick in, which has raised suggestions that the existing Patullo should be tolled as well to manage this issue, but that is another issue for another time

11 comments on “Transportation news!

  1. It’s 7 square miles not kilometers
    New West is small, but not that small.

    I thought they said it was supposed to be an open public consultation process. I would like to see Jarvis’s letter to the City, quite hiding in closed session you cowards. I know why council is hiding, it’s the back room deals being made, and then one day, without it being on the agenda, a motion will be passed to accept a deal.

    Just Wait and See.

  2. Yes, of course, 7 square miles. Somehow that seems much smaller than 18 Square Kilometres.

    Anon, I shared your skepticism, but after hearing what was released, I can see where they are going. Any negotiations around plans that involve land acquisition or expropriation, or cost-sharing negotiations with other organizations must be done in closed session to stop the land speculators and protect the integrity of the process. This is why the Local Government Act allows closed-session meetings. You can call them “back room deals”, but that are legal, normal operations of Civic government. We should, of course, expect full disclosure one the deal is done.

    I was a little pissed that there was no announcement on the agenda that this was going to be discussed, but really nothing new was said. They released some information from closed session that was appropriate to release, and reiterated their position announced publicly in December.

    Now, if they came out unannounced and said ”we decided to accept TransLink’s new proposal” after not showing us the proposal or opening it to public consultation, I would be livid. That hasn’t happened yet. I will, indeed, be waiting to see where this goes.

  3. Actually quite the opposite of “backroom deals” (what’s with all the paranoia in this city by “anonymous cowards” as they’re called on Slashdot?) I’ve asked for a copy of this letter and was told I can have one, no problem. The whole POINT of the motion at Monday’s council meeting was to pull this letter and motion OUT of the closed session and in to the public sphere.

    There really isn’t a boogeyman hiding behind every door.

  4. Hey Matt Laird, did you read the part where P@J said that it wasn’t on the agenda ? What else isn’t on the agenda ? You need to clean your ears out Matt, there was no motion passed at that meeting, only a resolution to not endorse the above mentioned letter.

    Make the letter public why don’t you Matt.

    Real Boogeymen wear Giorgio Armani.

  5. I will make it public, now that I received it this morning. You too could have had your own copy with a quick email to City Hall, however I guess that would have involved revealing your identity.

    It’s no secret that I’m one of the loudest critics around of council when it comes to transportation issues. But I also believe in credit where credit is due. From what I’ve been able to deduce the reason this item wasn’t on the agenda is because it was an impromptu motion.

    As Pat said, under the Local Government Act (ie. blame the BC Liberals) negotiations like this are by default in camera. It appears that one councilor, I’m not sure which but can take a guess, made a motion at the February 7th meeting to pull this letter from Translink out of the closed session and in to the public.

    Good on that person for standing up for transparency. Without that impromptu motion we never would have seen this letter from Translink or known what was occurring in these negotiations.

  6. Matt, you making good sense, infact, everyone should contact City hall to get their very own copy, that strategy will throw a boot in the gear works !

    Just read the letter.
    It was a good letter.

    Why would they say NO to that ?
    It time for some new blood on council, this group is an embarrassment.

  7. Here is why someone would say no to that letter:

    Report to council.

    If you have a short attention span, the summary version is that TransLink has not fulfilled the requirements Council has established for them to grant approval, do Council is not granting approval.

    Notably, they don’t just cite previous policy and decisions of this Council, but point to community goals that were set out in the Official Community Plan adopted in 1998 (different Mayor, different Council).

    Of course, if they had changed their minds between December and now, the boo-birds would be criticising their “flip flop” on the issue.

  8. Well, P@J it seems Coquitlams council endorsed the letter, as reported in the Tri-City.

    And you might want to check this out in the Coquitlam now

    “A staff report notes that the NFPR and UBE projects will provide a number of benefits to both Coquitlam and New Westminster: improved connectivity for goods movement and the mitigation of traffic congestion on Braid Street and the Bailey Bridge.”

    It would seem things are moving along smoothly.

  9. Tonight’s council meeting was very insightful, as it would seem Harper is on board, as well as the majority of council to see this project through with the federal money. They’ve finally recognizing the benefits to our industrial lands and infrastructure. And as Harper said, an opportunity might only come along every 10 to 20 years, and as a city we don’t have the resources to finance such projects. Ho-ray for rational minds !

  10. Mick, I was actually at the meeting, and respectfully suggest you are mischaracterizing the spirit of the room, as there was general consensus that the $65M federal funds would not be used as an excuse to rush the project.

    I saw nothing but reinforcement for the NWEP position on this project. It is the rational minds that have been holding Translink back for the last few months, by suggesting that a 4-lane overpass into an already overloaded traffic route just to get some “free money” from the taxpayers is not rational.

    The issue of the industrial lands have always been part of this discussion (it was raised again last night by Councillor MacIntosh), but there was no agreement that a 4-lane elevated UBE would provide the benefits we are looking for.

    I am hoping to write a summary of the discussion later today…

  11. P@J, the meeting was on television too you know, I think your sporting rose coloured glasses, and didn’t listen to what they where saying. a new UBE is imminent, they are going ahead with more planning and joint public consultation. What do you think that means P@J ? You think it’s shut down ? Not likely….

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