The United Boulevard Extension is back!

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.

Straight and relatively free flowing Lougheed and Trans-Canada Hwy versus narrower, curing, traffic light filled United Blvd
Straight and relatively free flowing Lougheed and Trans-Canada Hwy versus narrower, curing, traffic light filled United Blvd
We’ve all seen the movie before. Just when the village was taking a breath, confident that after a long struggle they’d finally killed the monster… Surprise! It’s still alive!

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!

Wide, straight Lougheed Highway, this looks more like a truck route.
Wide, straight Lougheed Highway, this looks more like a truck route.
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!

Narrower United Blvd full of driveways and traffic light, not ideal for free flowing traffic.
Narrower United Blvd full of driveways and traffic light, not ideal for free flowing traffic.
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.


Matthew Laird

Matthew Laird is a really valued member of the Tenth to the Fraser community. Interested in joining our pool of writers? Please see these submission guidelines.

11 comments

  1. If people don't push back, they just get pushed around. The good thing a about New West is that a lot a people are ready to defend their communities.

  2. I always wondered exactly why that light was red for everyone. I like your explanation, "…Then the lights stay that way, forever, or until the train passes, whichever comes first."

  3. I missed the meeting today, can anyone fill me in on involvement/attendance? How was the workshop?

  4. It was very well attended, a full house. What amazed me most about the workshop is the feeling around the room has shifted from 6 months ago. 6 months ago there was a fatalistic view on the project, "The traffic is going to come, we might as well get the best we can out of this project."

    Today, the opinion we kept hearing again and again from around the room was, no, we don't WANT this. We don't want to find a way for traffic to flow better through New West, we want LESS traffic through New West. That there was zero benefit for New West in helping traffic better traverse our streets, all it would lead to is more (if you build it, they will come).

    There were a number of people cluing in to the fact that United might be the wrong choice. Translink keeps reminding us how this is an old plan, it's been on the books for 20 years, therefore it's not exactly a surprise and should proceed. But people were starting to ask, ok, it was planned 20 years ago, is that still relevant today? Particularly with the Gateway Project less then 400m away and widening of Lougheed, maybe this whole plan needs to be re-evaluated in a contemporary context.

    I came out of the workshop with a very positive feeling, that if we can continue to convince our council this is a bad idea we might very well force a rethink on this entire project. That we might start questioning as a city what our transportation priorities are.

    The one negative note was at the end, the "homework" we were sent away with for the next workshop. To come back with the answer to, how should Brunette be connected to United Boulevard. Not IF it should be connected. Someone pointed this discrepancy out which was greeted with applause all around. For this photo challenge (we were told to take photos and upload them to Flickr) I'm going to take a photo of the now under construction King Edward Overpass. THAT, in my opinion, is how Brunette should be connected to United Boulevard. And guess what, it won't cost us $170 million!

  5. Good comments and good logic.! Our newly hired Manager of Transportaton has his work cut out for him.
    Being from Kelowna he has dealt with a single gridlocked main street and an alternate bypass route inundated with 4 way stops. I look forward to his input on a more challenging project.

    1. John, note he is also a Brit. London has been very aggressive at road pricing and congestion charges in order to deal with their own urban traffic issues.

      I for one am looking forward to meeting him. Fresh ideas are clearly needed here.

      My recent post Pinch me- Im famous

  6. Excellent article re the UBE.
    I totally agree – we should wait-wait-wait on this dinosaur of a project! It's critical that the whole North Fraser Perimeter Road project be examined in 2011/ future terms and not be accepted as a done deal.
    Of all the current projects adding parallel capacity to the NFPR, one of largest is the South Fraser Perimeter Road. The SFPR will take a lot of truck traffic away from Front Street / Brunette. It is only prudent that those impacts be considered more fully.
    The full NFPR plan (Front Street / Stewardson Way / East Columbia / Brunette / etc.) with all it's costly implications and community impacts, has to be rolled out and studied – before we start spending tens of millions on the UBE – not after! That is only good, professional transportation planning.
    Also, it makes sense for our own New Westminster Transportation Plan – the most important process/plan to residents in this City – be completed before moving forward with the UBE implementation.
    I say we should step back from the UBE and get proper planning in order before proceeding!

  7. Redirect the truck route onto the 401 and not United Boulevard. I think we have to look at alternate routes and not just barrel it through New West. Land areas of other municipalities are so much larger than New West that they can absorb it much better than we can.

    The complete route from Queensborough to the Pattullo and Port Mann should be reviewed as a whole. We're just piece mealing here as the funds become available. Not good enough.

    Any extension in New West from United Boulevard should be declined.

  8. Redirect the the truck route onto the 401 and not United Boulevard. I think we have to look at alternate routes and not just barrel it through New West. Land areas of other municipalities are so much larger than New West that they can absorb it much better than we can.

  9. As a senior, a grandmother, I can no longer tolerate all this traffic
    There are TOO MANY automobiles on this planet and has been this way for decades
    My life is threatened everyday just to cross on a Xwalk or light The noise and fumes are HORRID
    I can no longer be in my garden for more than 10 minutes or so before i have to go inside
    even with the windows shut i can't escape the irritating noise
    I am ANGRY at everyone awho drives
    Bring bck our rails
    Find ways and means to get people off driving

Comments are closed.

Tenth to the Fraser