TransLink has proposed replacing the 75-year-old Pattullo Bridge with one designed to last 100 years. Unfortunately, after attending their open house in New Westminster last Feb, I walked away feeling that they had missed a crucial opportunity.
First, I did not see how TransLink’s own established 2040 vision to reduce emissions fits into their plans for an expanded Pattullo bridge. Their diagrams excluded any noticeable collaboration with other planners about provincial, municipal and federal roads. Also, I did not see any evidence that TransLink planners were encouraged to investigate other ways of efficiently and affordably moving people and goods that are already in use or being developed around the world. It seems by focusing on bridge placement, they failed to create a broad and visionary linked transportation network for the entire region—that includes not just planning with municipalities and the province, but also the ports and railroads about the important challenges we face in evolving our transportation and energy systems.
When I asked a TransLink planner if the models for future traffic volumes included the increasing costs of oil and gas as a factor, he regretted that they had not.
I understand that the end of cheap petroleum can change our economy. If we do not start to transition soon, even a temporary economic downturn can affect tax revenues available for large projects. I believe that no time is more important than now for clarity, collaboration and constant citizen participation. So before assigning today’s precious tax dollars to another expensive new bridge across the Fraser River, there is an urgency to get it right. And that got me wondering…
…how can we think outside the box that can constrain consultants and civil servants who are, without a doubt, restricted by a particular mandate that has been set out for them?
When thinking about transportation, we all need to develop our visionary capacity so that every project goes beyond short-term local issues. We have to learn to be visionaries and remember that citizens’ ideas about transportation are crucial.
Questions for us:
1.) During your travels, what kinds of low-emission transportation, for people or goods, have you seen that could be considered for the Vancouver region?
2.) When a lot of us are over 70 years old, what kind of transportation do you think we can rely upon for our daily needs?
Questions for planners:
3) When the Port Mann Bridge becomes tolled and cars and trucks divert to the un-tolled Pattullo Bridge, what are the projected impacts of pollution, traffic congestion, and bridge safety?
4) If tolling has undermined the reasoning behind expanding the Port Mann Bridge, is focusing on building bigger bridges going to solve our transportation issues with our best future in mind?
5) What ideas can be put into place, now and into the future, to avoid increased traffic flow through New Westminster’s 3 main corridors—McBride to 10th Ave., Royal Ave. to Stewardson Way, and East Columbia to Brunette?
6) As fuel prices continue to rise, what effect will that factor have on car and truck use on the Pattullo Bridge?
7) Since types of transportation and location of corridors determine the location of new development, what network is envisioned for guiding density for the next 100 years?
8) How can we protect our current green zones (parks, ecological reserves, forests, bog lands, tree farms, Agricultural Land Reserve and non-ALR agricultural use, etc.) as we accommodate changes over the next 100 years?
9) How does our region need to plan for the projected impact of Climate Change?
When it comes to the Pattullo Bridge, I am concerned that TransLink’s vision is too narrow. After all, road designers and bridge builders, when asked to address a problem, will always try to solve it by designing more roads and building more bridges. The result is that we, the users and funders, will not get what we need for our rapidly changing future.
Fortunately, the City wants the people of New Westminster to have a stronger voice in the TransLink bridge discussions, and you can help them have it by attending New Westminster’s open houses on The Master Transportation Plan on Thurs, May 3 at Century House from 2-4pm and the Justice Institute from 6-9pm. Even if you don’t have an opinion yet, your presence is important to inspire discussion in the region and build our shared vision.