Reminder: last UBE consultation session this Thursday

I've been dutifully attending TransLink's consultation sessions for the UBE. We've seen 3 so far, and the last one will be held this Thursday evening at 7 pm at the Sapperton Pensioner's Hall at 318 Keary St, just up from Columbia. Translink will be "reporting out", summarizing what they've heard from the community over the weeks of discussion. I'd encourage all citizens to come out to see what TransLink is planning to bring to New Westminster. As for me, I must admit that my attendance at [...]

This is a guest post by Reena Meijer Drees. Reena blogs about car(e)-free living in New Westminster at http://carefreenewwest.blogspot.com/.

I’ve been dutifully attending TransLink’s consultation sessions for the UBE. We’ve seen 3 so far, and the last one will be held this Thursday evening at 7 pm at the Sapperton Pensioner’s Hall at 318 Keary St, just up from Columbia. Translink will be “reporting out”, summarizing what they’ve heard from the community over the weeks of discussion. I’d encourage all citizens to come out to see what TransLink is planning to bring to New Westminster. As for me, I must admit that my attendance at these sessions has left me feeling like I’ve been pushed into owning something I really don’t want.

There has been a good turnout for these events so far, with six fully populated “breakout” groups around tables, each with a facilitator (third-party, not TransLink) and at least one TransLink staffer to help out with technical details. I’d guess the total community attendance to be 70 or more every time, pretty good considering some sessions have conflicted with hockey games.

At these sessions I have met only a single person from outside of New West (I think from Coquitlam somewhere). He told me he drives through New West; he was there to voice his opinion that New West was the “sphincter of the Lower Mainland” and was hoping for some relief. I asked TransLink if they had held any open houses on the UBE in Coquitlam – apparently only one, and attendance was so poor (the 25 people who attended were all from New West) that they didn’t have any more. Coquitlam council supports the UBE and they have plans for further (car-oriented) development along United Blvd. It is hard to have a meaningful discussion with other stakeholders when they don’t show up.

The mood in the room has not been very happy. Almost uniformly, residents do not like the idea of the UBE. Many are concerned about noise, about increased congestion, about the idea of an overpass blocking views. Others don’t like the emphasis on road building, which seems so diametrically opposed to Translink’s stated goals of prioritizing pedestrians, bikes, and transit…especially given that we are now experiencing bus service cuts here in New West. And some residents see this as the thin edge of the wedge for the North Fraser Perimeter Road, a series of as-yet-unfunded projects which will see Front St turn into a 4-lane truck route, and a 6-lane Patullo bringing more regional traffic through our City. The fear is that the UBE will be done, and then nothing will follow for years as TransLink’s budgets continue to suffer, leaving us with more congestion that we started with. Time and again people stood up and voiced that they wanted to see the entire NFPR discussed and a big picture plan put on the table before discussing the UBE. This was not really done – the discussions were pretty quickly guided into specifics about where roads should go and what mitigation features we wanted.

TransLink asked for community ideas for the connection, and created long lists of what residents saw as the problems around the current intersection. From this they created a short list of possible configurations to explore. There were two suggestions from the community, called “option E” and “option C”. Option C consists of simply closing the level crossing at Braid and Brunette and eliminating the possibility of access to the Industrial land this way. Since the lights spend about 30% of their time letting the small amount of traffic coming out of the lands, remoiving access would improve traffic flow along Brunette. It would eliminate the backups that happen when turning traffic has to wait for a train. It would stop at least one train whistle. This option was rejected by TransLink with very few reasons given. Option E, the other suggestion from the residents, was to make the road from United connect with Brunette at a new intersection to be located near the overpass over HWY1. This would move the connection and its associated congestion out of New Westminster. Translink’s objection to this idea is that it creates too many intersections in a short distance. I would be surprised if this idea were still on the list.

The only idea that passes muster with TransLink is that of a large, 4-lane overpass over the “dip” in the Skytrain between Sapperton and Braid stations. The road would flow into Brunette without an intersection – no expropriation of property this time. There are lots of details availble and lots of mitigation discussed. But I can guarantee that the consensus in the Pensioner’s Hall is that this – “option B” – is unacceptable.

TransLink has stated throughout the sessions that “doing nothing” remains an option. We will see if they recommend this course of action, which I’d hazard is the top choice of most residents. Please attend if you can, so that if TransLink attempts to make us “own” the overpass idea – the only one left standing, by their own design – we can stand up and tell them that in fact, what the community really wants is to kill the UBE and give the money to the Evergreen Line. If you can’t attend, pass your thoughts on to New West City Coucil (email: postmaster@newwestcity.ca) They need to stand up and refuse to let this monstrosity be built.

Reena Meijer Drees

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

5 comments

  1. Where is the leadership we should be getting from Translink on Transportation Planning? They are pushing to spend huge amounts of our tax monies on the UBE – based on an extremely questionable mandate to implement the North Fraser Perimeter Road.
    The authority and justification for the North Fraser Perimeter road is very hazy and undefined – Translink does not have even the bare bones of any kind of preliminary plan, costing estimates, impact analysis or implementation schedule to show us. Translink has never to date planned out the NFPR in any more detail than a little red line on a map – and they have stated in public they do not currently have any plans to study the NFPR further.
    The huge weakness of Translink's approach to the UBE is they are approaching it as a one-time capital project to be implemented as a stand alone piece of infrastructure. Slow down (or better yet STOP) on this dinosaur highway project and show us what real planning can do to improve our transportation system.

  2. Well, although I couldn't make it to the "report out" session last night, my husband and a pile of friends did. The long and short of it is that the UBE is not going forward. That, and the entire North Fraser Perimeter Road is also off Translink's list of priorities.
    I must say I was not expecting this, but kudos to Translink for listening to the community and actually making what must've been a fairly tough political decision.

    1. I can't wait to see what kind of fallout this whole thing is going to cause, on many levels. My counterpart in Coquitlam is probably fit to be tied. We're seeing transit service cuts, and waiting on a decision for the Patullo. Worst of all, there's no money ! The funding gap is in all probability the real reason TransLink walked away. Based on escalating fuel and construction costs alone ! Net effect – more fuel usage from an inefficient transportation network, increased bottleneck of the ever-expanding braid industrial area truck traffic and 65 million of our federal tax dollars will be spent in some other community.

      Oh, well it's an election year.

      1. Rick, worst part is you won’t even man up and admit you were wrong. You didn’t think we had a hope in hell of stopping this project, and that we were wasting our time in the public consultations. Your counterpart (?) in Coqutilam has no reason to be upset, as she chose not to take part in the consultation process, so I don’t know why she would expect to have been heard.

        1. I still don't think you have a chance in hell of stopping the UBE, it's inevitable. The governments have adopted population growth as a method to increase tax base, and roads are needed to services this scheme. Wasting our time in the public ? The public has no vote in this. it up to the your elected government ! The consultations were a farse intended to placate the sulky babies of sapperton.

          Wasn't it Mr. Mayor Rick ? Can't find the story about his sex change, gotta link ?
          http://www.bclocalnews.com/tri_city_maple_ridge/t

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