OK, I’m back. EMAofBC Workshop event went well. Thanks for asking!
Back to regular de-programming…
Hector Bremner has been all over the local media recently. I have met him briefly a few times, and he seems like a nice guy. We disagree on a few things (most notably, our differing opinions on the leadership qualities of Premier McSparkles™), but ultimately, I think his heart is in the right place.
I did like reading his recent comments in the NewsLeader regarding the Pattullo Bridge proposals that have been snuck out to a few “stakeholders” for comment before the great unwashed get to opine.
It sounds like the 6-lane option for the bridge has been favoured, without real justification for expanding capacity at this time, nor for managing how a 50% increase in traffic capacity at one point in our City is going to help a City already congested with too much through-traffic. Setting aside two lanes for trucks sounds useful for “goods movement”, but in reality, you are just removing the trucks from the other two lanes, and making more room for cars. Then the increased number of trucks and cars are going to have to jam together again at the now-worse choke points on the north side of the river.
Make no mistake: I do support dedicating one lane each way on the bridge to goods movement, but not an additional lane. To me, goods movement is a bigger priority than commuters who have other choices. Perhaps a creative compromise solution would be to build a 4-lane bridge, and dedicate two lanes to trucks only during off-peak hours. This creates an incentive for trucks to use the roads when they are underutilized, allowing more efficient trucking, or they can choose to mix it up with commuters at peaks. Admittedly, I just pulled this idea out of my ashtray… there might be unforeseen consequences…
It is implied in the NewsLeader article that a 6-lane bridge will be “safer”, and here is where we see the creative messaging starting to appear. The danger on the Pattullo has always been excessive speed, usually late at night when the bridge was underutilized. I’m not sure how turning it into a wide, mostly empty, 6-lane speedway after midnight will improve safety. The greatest thing ever done to improve safety on the Pattullo was to reduce the number of lanes at night. Somehow, going the opposite way will now help? A 4-lane Pattullo can be as safe as a 6-lane Pattullo, and no Pattullo may be the safest option of all. So much for the safety argument.
The second part of Hector’s discussions I don’t quite follow. I agree that we should not be making major investments into infrastructure until we have a longer-term plan based on identified goals, however he (or the editing) makes it sound like those sorts of plans don’t already exist, when clearly they do.
The broader regional transportation plan is called Transport 2040. The City has an existing Master Transportation Plan, upon which the next one will be built. There is also a Regional Growth Strategy , and his own favorite BC Liberal Government has a Climate Action Plan. All of these say the same thing: we need to stop building space for cars, because that will not solve any of the problems we are trying to solve, and start making it easier to take the alternatives: public transit or active transportation. The plans are there, were created locally and regionally, with political blessing and public input, they are all their laid out on paper. All we have to do now is build the infrastructure we were planning to build, not the infrastructure that is momentarily convenient to build. Because no-one likes to see infrastructure money wasted on making a problem worse (cough*cough*Queensborough bridge*cough).
I definitely don’t agree with the criticism that is implied about the Public Consultations that TransLink ran for the UBE. I think (after the false start forever known as the Donnybrook Conference) they did an excellent job of making themselves available to the public, of balancing the talking and the listening. I think they gave a solid effort to make something work that addressed the local concerns. When they could not come up with that solution through consultation, they “put their pencils down”, which was the honest thing to do. It would have been easy for them, with the political pressure on them from several fronts, to railroad that overpass through (pun intended), but they didn’t. They were true to their consultation model, and TransLink deserve praise for that, not criticism.
Anyway, it was good to see Hector, (who is currently the closest thing we have to a BC Liberal Insider in New Westminster, yet he seems enigmatically logical), critical of how this road expansion will impact New Westminster. What I haven’t heard from him, or anyone else, is how our current traffic system will be negatively affected when tolls begin on the Port Mann and the existing Pattullo becomes the preferred route from Central Surrey. The party he wants to represent in New Westminster has made it pretty clear that they will not tolerate tolls on this bridge, existing or replacement.
That raises another unadressed question: where is this $1 Billion going to come from? If not tolls, then where? Translink is nearly destitute, and even the Pattullo Expansion’s biggest fan, the Mayor of Surrey, is clamouring for whatever spare cash they have lying around to be spent improving public transit in her under-serviced City. The Fed largesse is clearly running out. That pretty much leaves the BC Government, who at this point is happy to muck about unaccountably in TransLink finances, but wash their hands of the negative economics of that mucking about.
If this bridge is in immediate peril of collapse, then let’s plan for the most affordable, practical replacement that fits our needs: a 4-lane structure using the same major intersection architecture at each end. The net impact on the neighbouring communities will be minimized, and we can save $300 Million or so just by building a lean, mean 4-lane bridge. Let’s re-invest those savings in the modern, practical and efficient infrastructure that South-of-the-Fraser needs to reduce their dependence on the Pattullo and reduce the traffic load on New Westminster; just like Transport 2040, the existing New Westminster Master Transportation Plan, the Regional Growth Strategy, and the other plans we have been making for 20 years say we should.
Alternately, let’s actually get ahead of those plans and reach faster for those goals they outline: take the entire $1 Billion and build sustainable infrastructure South-of-the-Fraser, and begin the orderly phasing out of the Pattullo.