The return of the Son of the Zombie UBE

Look, the United Boulevard Extension is not coming back, OK? Can we move on?
I know there were some recent rattles in the news related to the closing of the Bailey Bridge, and perhaps the Mayor’s comments on the radio were less clear than ideal, but the UBE, and the NFPR for which it stands, are done.

TransLink has no money to build them, they are not likely to fall into any money soon, and the original UBE overpass design is still not going to pass muster in New Westminster. None of those facts have changed now that a couple of truckers have driven trucks heavier than the Bailey Bridge is rated and cracked the spine of the damn thing.

Still, really nice of Mayor Stewart to offer to pay for a replacement. But does his offer about the bridge make any sense at all?

I’m not sure how the Bailey Bridge supports “the most important industrial area of Greater Vancouver”, as this hyperbole might be a little shocking to the residents of North Vancouver, Port Kells, or – well, any of a half dozen other industrially-developed parts of the Lower Mainland. The strip of big box retail, and limited industry along United Boulevard might be important to Coquitlam’s tax coffers, but it is hardly the centre of the region’s industrial activity. Coquitlam’s plans to put 7,500 residents in multiple towers right in the middle of it suggests the industrial future of Coquitlam’s waterfront is cloudy.

The Mayor then is quoted to say:

“These are goods-movement corridors that are vitally important for commerce. To have a route bottle-necked by a one-lane Bailey bridge that could only handle alternating traffic for the last 18 years is unreasonable and unrealistic. A temporary two-lane bridge, he said, could serve the area until a permanent overpass is developed.”

At the risk of repeating myself, the Bailey Bridge only connects to United Boulevard.

United Boulevard is a narrow 50 km/h 4-lane with nasty visibility issues, several stoplights, numerous driveways, and high retail traffic. It is directly parallel to, and only 200m from, the 8-lane 100km/h limited access Highway 1 with its fresh new 8 lanes of limited-access flow, and another 200m away from Lougheed highway, which a 6-8 lanes, with wide truck-friendly turn bays, synchronized light cycles and 60km/h speed limit.
If United via the Bailey is a severe “bottleneck”, then there are two very nearby “mason jar wide-mouths” available for the free movement of goods. There are even parallel rail tracks, upon which goods have traditionally been moved, and there was even a time when movement of goods along the river was the reason a place like Fraser Mills was founded in the first place.

The problem with providing decent road access to the Brunette Industrial area is not solved by opening up a through-fare for commuters. It is the oldest neighbourhood traffic problem in the world – how to you provide easy access to an area without it becoming a through-fare and actually making access for the locals worse? The UBE as proposed by TransLink was a poor solution to that problem, and it isn’t coming back.

If I was disappointed at all in the outcome of the UBE consultation, it was that once the Sapperton Uberpass design was rejected, TransLink walked away, and showed no interest in re-engaging with the stakeholders to address the actual issues.

Even worse, we have seen no action by the City of New Westminster to address the ongoing need for traffic management to support the area’s business needs, to address safety at the Braid railway crossings, or to bring the stakeholders together and apply a bit of lateral thinking to problem. Maybe it has been happening out of the public eye, but if so, then one presumes when the Bailey got broken the Mayor would be able to discuss progress made since, instead of complaining about an issue that was all over the news two years ago.

Why are we crisis managing this again instead of making plans between the crises? And what will happen between now and the next crisis, which I hope will not be a serious vehicle-train collision on Braid!

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