Pattullo and the City

Having attended both New Westminster workshops on the Pattullo Bridge Replacement being held by TransLink, and being on the Master Transportation Planning (MTP) committee for the City, I noticed there is a o lot of misunderstanding about what the City’s position is on the TransLink process, and how the City’s MTP process fits into that.

Big caveat here: I am but one member of the Master Transportation Planning committee, representing the Advisory Committee on Transit, Bicycles and Pedestrians. The MTP committee has 20+ members from various City committees and outside agencies, and is only one part of the entire MTP process, being run by City Staff and outside consultants, under direction from Council. Therefore, nothing I say here is in any way the official position of the MTP committee, City staff or Council, or anyone else other than me. It is, however, based on what I have heard said at various official meetings and unofficial conversations with staff and council.

At the TransLink meeting at the Quay on Thursday, I talked to School Board members and several other people in the community who are usually very much in the know, and I found myself trying to explain what the relationship between the MTP and the Pattullo Bridge consultation is. Unfortunately, it has been cast a bit in the media that New West is once again being obstructionist, engaging in Nimbyism, refusing to take part, and being generally petulant spoilt brats. This despite the attempts by City Council and TransLink to broadcast that this is not the case.

So I am going to presume to interpret how the City sees this process happening, based on conversations at the (public and open) MTP meeting and with City Staff and Council members (so interpretation ahead: Staff or Councillors please correct me if I am off the mark here!)
I don’t see New Westminster missing the boat at all here, but I see the City taking a pragmatic, responsible and measured approach.

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that this round of consultations on the Pattullo is the first round of a very long process. TransLink will be taking the results of this consultation (preliminary design characteristics) and then entering an “operation analysis” phase. The preferred design out of this process will be tested at both ends for everything from how it manages traffic flows, how it fits the existing traffic patterns, how bikes and pedestrians will be accommodated, etc., etc. TransLink will also start the (potentially lengthy) joint Provincial and Federal Environmental Assessment process. Both of these steps will include significant public consultation and discussion. Then they will have to deal with the financing model, hiring a concessionaire, negotiating land swaps, etc. Even after this initial consultation, TransLink is at least 4 years from any shovels getting into any ground, and at least 3 before we know whose shovels it will be, and where they want to put them.  In other words: there is no rush to provide all the answers right now.

As for the City, they are updating their Master Transportation Plan, last completed 13 years ago. The MTP process will take about another 12 months. If you look at this diagram, it shows the steps for the MTP:

The City is currently completing Phase 2 (information gathering) and is about to embark on Phase 3. That is the phase where the City looks at where it is today, transportation infrastructure-wise, and determines what the Goals, Values, Objectives are for the coming decade or two. It is the big “visioning stage”. In a couple of months, after some public and stakeholder meetings, and likely workshops, the City will come up with a set of Values and Goals that define what type of transportation infrastructure the community wants to see in the foreseeable future (and in this case, by “the community”, I mean the residents, the businesses, the staff and the elected officials; everyone involved in the MTP process).

Then, when those Values and Goals are determined and formalized, the City will be in a position to approach TransLink and say: “Here you go. Make your plans address this”.

I don’t think there is yet a concrete idea of how that discussion will take place: will there be public consultations? Will the City report out to TransLink or do a joint consultation and reporting? No idea., but the point is that the City will take a bit of time right now to get a better understanding of that the community of New Westminster wants in a transportation system, then they will be armed with that knowledge when they go into negotiations with TransLink on how the bridge they want to build fits those parameters – or if it can even be made to fit them.

In the meantime, TransLink will be continuing to work on their process, but New Westminster will not be missing any boats here. We will be through that Phase 3 work in only a few months, TransLink will not likely have any operational plans in place for a year. When the MTP is at a point where useful data is available for TransLink, TransLink will be in about the same position as they are now. More importantly, TransLink knows and understands that this is the route the City wants to take, and seems to respect that decision.

So, if you really want to influence the Pattullo Bridge design? My advice is to get involved in the Master Transportation Plan process. Come to the meetings, attend the workshops, follow on-line, and provide your input at every opportunity.

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