For those who haven’t yet heard, Translink is back with a new round of consultations on the Highway Nobody Wants. The first in a series of United Boulevard Extension workshops is this Saturday, 9:30am-12pm at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall, 318 Keary Street.
More public consolation was one of New Westminster city council’s requirements for Translink when it put the brakes on the project earlier this year. So good for Translink in organizing this very comprehensive series of workshops to engage citizens on this large infrastructure project. They’re planning a series of 6 half-day workshops that will really take the public through from their concerns to visioning alternative designs.
Unfortunately, the other requirement Council put on Translink was not embraced by Translink: that the North Fraser Perimeter Road be planned and built as a whole project, not a piecemeal with the United Boulevard Extension being built years (or decades) prior to the rest. Which raises the question of why is Translink dragging it’s poor staff members to what are probably very expensive consultations for a project that simply won’t be approved by New Westminster because it still doesn’t meet their clearly-stated requirements? It seems like a fool’s errand, and a waste of money; something Translink isn’t exactly rolling in right now.
New Westminster Environmental Partners’ transportation sub-committee met last weekend to discuss the upcoming workshops, and every time we think about and discuss this project, new questions continue to pop up.
We began discussing this project as part of the bigger picture of the Gateway Project, and in relation to the King Edward Overpass project. By our count, when all these projects are completed, there will be 16 lanes of road running parallel to United Boulevard only a few hundred metres away. That’s 10 on the Trans-Canada Highway and 6 on Lougheed: an enormous increase in capacity.
It is also apparent looking at a map that these three roads are designed quite differently. Highway 1 is a straight, wide, with no traffic lights slowing vehicle free-flow (one of Translink’s stated reasons why they didn’t like “Option A” for the UBE is because it involved a traffic light). Lougheed Highway (note the word highway in it’s name) is another wide, straight road with few traffic lights. United Boulevard, on the other hand, is relatively narrow, barely wide enough for 4 lanes, and definitely not wide enough to accommodate the bicycle and pedestrian improvements Translink has promised. It’s also quite curvy, with a significant number of traffic lights, poor sight lines, and perpendicular driveways emerging on to it. It’s a local access road, not a connector road for hundreds of trucks per day. And with all the driveways emerging on to it, it would become a very dangerous road with a significant increase in car and truck traffic, unless all the businesses along United are willing to have their driveways closed off. We’ve all seen the traffic back-ups just to dump trash at Wastetech!So why route the North Fraser Perimeter Road, a purportedly regional truck through-fare, along United Boulevard? At this point the NFPR west of Mary Hill is just a grey line on a map, nothing’s been built. It would certainly be a lot safer and cheaper to shift that grey line to one of the two recently upgraded, wide, relatively free-flowing roads parallel to United Boulevard! But what about Braid and Brunette? The choke point Translink keeps telling us about? The light causes traffic to back up (or acts as a valve for traffic in to New West some might say) and prevents it from reaching these wide, straight roads that are being built just across the border in Coquitlam. Wouldn’t, logic suggest we first try to fix the intersection?
Another observation that came out of the meeting was how this traffic light operates. When a train passes through the intersection, traffic in all directions comes to a grinding halt. You might ask “why does all the traffic stop when the train only intersects one side of Braid?” The simple answer is, for safety reasons, when a train approaches the level crossing the lights automatically go in to green for only the cars exiting the Sapperton Industrial Area, in order to clear the cars any vehicles that which are illegally blocking the crossing. Then the lights stay that way, forever, or until the train passes, whichever comes first.
Now we have identified one of the main “flow problems” at the intersection beside a very busy rail corridor: for safety reasons the cars illegally stopped on the crossing need to be cleared. However, after the crossing is clear, can we not get the traffic on Brunette flowing again? Get those cars and trucks over to the new, wide, straight freeway, rather than sitting there watching a train go past beside them.
Translink continues to say this $160-180 million project is about getting traffic flowing (except when they say it is about “goods movement”), but we contend there are cheaper, less invasive ways to do so, without even considering the previous discussion about reducing demand rather than trying to build our way out of congestion. With their ongoing tunnel vision regarding the United Boulevard Extension, it seems the only “flow problem” Translink is trying to solve here is the flow of $65 million of your Federal Tax Dollars.