MP Fin Donnelly on UBE: piecemeal transportation planning unfair

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 [...]

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.

Fin Donnelly
Member of Parliament
New Westminster-Coquitlam & Port Moody

Fin Donnelly

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12 comments

  1. Stewart said, adding, "I have spoken with council and our council has joined in their call for some of the improvements that need to be done so I'm hopeful that, in the end,>>>rational intelligent minds<<< will find the way to proceed here because we have a tremendous amount of federal dollars at risk."

    What a kick ! Who feels that one ?

    Hardie said. "Since none of the project options were accepted, including the [T-intersection] option the >>>city of New Westminster supported for five years<<<, it's back to the drawing board for us."

    Another boot ! I wonder how much it has cost so far to scrap all the plans they made ?

    Mr Mp, I think it's past Council Vs Council at this point ! It's Translink + Council + People vs Council

    I really enjoyed Mayor Stewarts comments regarding "rational intelligent minds" !
    You won't find much of that in the New Westminster electorate either I'm afraid !

    "We've got to solve it. There's no question that, at the end of the day, the traffic is not going to go around New West. There are goods movements that need to go through New Westminster." – Stewart

    It seems that Coquitlams council has a much better grasp on the situation then our vote desperate council.

    "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." – Mp

    I agree. As has been reported the City of New Westminster >>>had<<< the plans for over 5 years, and gave commitments to Translink and others. They should have been the ones planning to spend wisely, and to consult with the local community and business regarding future impacts rather then directing TransLink to present only the most costly and inefficient option. Taking a "wait and see" approach does nothing but compound the problems we're facing.

    1. Must you be so antagonistic, Rick? Insulting the intelligence of those who happen to not agree with you is not conducive to productive dialogue. It's unfortunate to see that Stewart is resorting to the same tactics.

    2. I agree with Barb, the antagonism is a bit stifling. You know if you love roads as much as you say you do, I have an idea. Calgary is a city that loves nothing more than Big Oil and Big Urban Sprawl with Big roads. Might be the perfect fit.
      I'll stick to my little city and hope for environmentally sustainable practices.

      1. "A person who is too nice an observer of the business of the crowd, like one who is too curious in observing the labor of bees, will often be stung for his curiosity"

  2. I agree! Especially the part about we can not build a sustainable transportation network piecemeal. Translink does not seem to have the expertise nor capacity to do professional transportation planning. They are newcomers in this field (previously dealt only with transit planning) – and it shows!
    Translink plans for the North Fraser Perimeter Road were weak on context and regional "fit". Piecemeal is exactly the word to describe how the NFPR plan was integrated into regional growth and other current/planned transportation projects. Even something as relatively simple as a pedestraian and cycling integration was not worked out.
    Our MP is right – we need real planning at a higher level. Even at the regional Metro level would be a start.

  3. @rick – This is exactly the problem, everyone keeps saying the NFPR is for GOODS movement but no one will commit to ensure it actually is used only for GOODS movement. The instant any piece of the NFPR is opened it will be overrun by commuter traffic, clogging the route and creating no benefit for regional good movement.

    We have this idea of, "let's just build more roads," with no plan of who or how they'll be used. No plan of long term mode shift and the bigger picture of regional and transportation planning. It's always just "one more road." I was in Seattle a few days ago and commented to my other half that I can't remember a point in my lifetime when visiting Seattle that I-5 hasn't been under construction or expansion. For DECADES that road has been under construction and they're no closer to solving the congestion problems they face in Seattle. What makes us think we can build our way out of congestion when NO other region in the world has EVER managed to do so. If we can somehow do it, wow, we could make billions selling that magic formula.

    @keith – Indeed, we do need a higher level plan. We did have plans such as the Livable Region Strategic Plan which clearly defined zones such as agriculture, housing, and industry in the region. How to ensure we didn't find ourselves in sprawl, with disjoint industrial areas requiring trucks to criss-cross the region, how to make sustainable town centres that were economical to service with transit. And then all the municipalities (particularly those south of the Fraser) went and ignored those well thought out plans.

    We found low density housing being built in some isolated corner of the region, single storey sprawling business parks popping up all over, horrific urban design which just pounds the taxpayer with respect to the cost to provide services for it all. We're really hurting ourselves and our own pocketbooks by our current urban design choices. There was no teeth in the LRSP to ensure municipalities lived up to their responsibilities.

    So yes, we need a higher level (hopefully not appointed by Kevin 'pave it' Falcon) to create a regional sustainable development plan and enforce that the cities stick to it. Otherwise we'll keep seeing our taxes go up as we try to build more roads and send buses out to service some sprawling, acre lot sized single family developments in Langley or Maple Ridge.

    1. "I was in Seattle a few days ago " – Did you utilize your bicycle for the journey or rely on a horseless carriage ?

      When you did not utilize your bicycle as your mode of transport perhaps you resorted to the most time efficient route to your destination via asphalt roads created to facilitate fossil fuel consuming mechanized carriages !

      "no one will commit" – you said it !

  4. Matt,
    Have you checked out Metro's draft Regional Growth Strategy? http://www.metrovancouver.org/planning/developmen
    We don't need to look to Langley or Maple Ridge to see poor land use plans that are not serviced by transit. How about the Burnaby Big Bend Industrial Park? A business park that is far away from any transit service.
    I agree building roads to "fix" traffic problems has never worked well. I remember sharing this example with Gordon Price a few years back. Have you ever tried to take the Langley Bypass to get around the traffic of downtown Langley? A road initially built to alleviate traffic is now inundated with big-box retail and traffic lights galore. Kind of like… United Boulevard.
    I probably shouldn't say all this though as this will just support Rick's belief that you and I are part of some group.
    🙂

  5. Great article FIn, now back to your save the salmon crusade – can you do some thing about this toxic blog before the salmon fry come down river. You seem to be missing in action on this one?

  6. Just ask any of the local residents in Mapleridge what they think of all the new increased traffic the two new bridges have brought into the community. I also agree withthe previous post Fin needs to look into this toxic blob before it spreads!

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