This is a guest post from New Westminster-Coquitlam & Port Moody MP Fin Donnelly about the controversial United Boulevard Extension project.
Over the past month I have received numerous calls from constituents regarding the proposed United Boulevard Extension (UBE) road project, connecting Coquitlam and New Westminster.
Those from Maillardville argue that this ‘long overdue’ project will allow traffic to flow more freely out of the Brunette corridor in Coquitlam; while Sapperton residents have major concerns that the project will result in increased traffic flowing into New Westminster and the expropriation of residential and industrial land.
Transportation projects like these define communities, they become the ‘face’ of cities; but in the design stage, can be contentious because of the very nature of their impact on neighbourhoods. They also put interests at odds; pitting car driver against transit rider, industrial landowner against homeowner and neighborhood against neighborhood, and in the case of the UBE, Council against Council.
While the process used to shape these projects can be hostile, thankfully people often share the same goal of developing a liveable, sustainable community. However, regardless of where we live or our transportation mode of choice, this goal can be overshadowed when plans are implemented piece-meal.
With the UBE, the Conservative government and Translink have taken a ‘now or never’ approach threatening to pull $65 million in federal funding off the table if the project plan is not approved by December 31st 2010.
By trying to ram this through, New Westminster residents feel they are being denied meaningful consultation without assurance that other important pieces to the overall transportation corridor, like Front Street, which would steer trucks away from residential neighbourhoods, are in place. Neither have they received commitments that these concerns will be resolved before the December 31st deadline.
None of the UBE options proposed by Translink adequately serve the needs of the Sapperton residents. For this reason, New Westminster city council sent Translink back to the drawing board earlier this week.
Projects and processes such as these drive home the point that a meaningful regional transportation plan with real community engagement, adequate timelines and all relevant information, is needed.
It is unfair to expect that we can build a sustainable transportation network piecemeal.
I believe Canada needs a bold, new national transit strategy, one that adopts a far-sighted approach to urban transportation, recognizing the coming shift to a post carbon future. The trick is accommodating current transportation projects, such as the UBE, with this goal in mind.
This strategy would give top priority and funding to projects like the Evergreen Line. If we don’t have convenient, safe, clean, reliable public transit, then commuters will continue to opt for car-oriented road solutions that, at best, temporarily relieve, but eventually worsen congestion.
We must remember that decisions made today around infrastructure spending and priorities will be felt well into the future; so let’s plan, consult and spend wisely.
Member of Parliament
New Westminster-Coquitlam & Port Moody