Short Idea #1

I have been chewing on three ideas recently, all related to the perpetual New Westminster transportation conundrum. None of these ideas are mine, but the more I think about them, the more I like them. The first two come from the fertile mind of a friend of mine with whom I am always talking sustainable transportation, and who continues to surprise me with little pieces of insight like this. The third was re-ignited by a recent letter to the editor that reflects something a few others have dared to suggest when the Pattullo Issue is raised, but no-one has yet dared yet write down…

The others will arrive in subsequent blogs posts, but for today, I will start with Idea #1:

The tunnel may be a goods movement solution, but it isn’t a congestion solution.

During the most recent Master Transportation Plan open house, the City of New Westminster introduced an idea that has not really been discussed before: an east-west road tunnel under New Westminster, allowing trucks (and cars?) to bypass Royal Ave and Front Street altogether.

Image from City of New West MTP poster presentation,
click to enlarge, and note grey dotty line. 

Clearly, details are lacking, as it is a very preliminary idea – really little more than a fuzzy dotted line on a map. There is no clear idea how it will connect to existing roads, if it would be a trucks/commercial vehicle only route or open for general use, how many lanes it would be or if it would be tolled. Actually, there is no suggestion who would pay for this very expensive piece of infrastructure. These details have not stopped people form speculating that this may be the “solution” to New Westminster’s traffic woes.

However, it isn’t that, and I don’t think it is being purported to be that by the City.

Such a tunnel may provide a friendlier way to move thousands of trucks a day through New Westminster (if the region, the Port, the BC Truckers Association, the Ministry of Transportation, or whoever the hell is making the decisions around here insist this is the best way to move goods in the next century) while protecting the livability and safety of our community.So if whomever wants to “free up goods movement” through New Westminster, the City has just provided a line on a map towards that end. However, I’m pretty convinced the people with the actual purse strings would balk at the cost.

The most important fact is that it will not do one iota to reduce traffic congestion in our city. It may shift the congestion to the areas around the portals at each end, and worsen it in places like the Queensborough Bridge and Brunette, while toll-avoiders and congestion-skirters will still “rat-run” through our neigbourhoods instead of waiting and paying to go underground. Like major urban tunnel systems from Seattle to Brisbane, it will only induce increased congestion on surrounding roads.

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