MP Fin Donnelly on UBE: piecemeal transportation planning unfair

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

TransLink responds to UBE criticism in the Buzzer blog

Just a quick update on the controversial United Boulevard Extension plans for you: The Buzzer’s Jhenifer Pabillano took many of the questions and criticisms raised in your comments here, on the New Westminster Environmental Partners website and on NWEP President Pat Johnstone’s blog, Green New West (great commentary btw, Pat) to TransLink’s Director of Roads Sany Zein. In a lengthy blog post on The Buzzer, Sany provides TransLink’s perspective on the following questions:

  • What is the United Boulevard Extension and why is it considered a priority for the region?
  • Why is TransLink interested in this road project – shouldn’t TransLink be investing only in transit projects?
  • Why is it such a high priority?
  • What are the potential benefits of this project?
  • There are four options currently presented for the United Boulevard Extension. Will we only consider the one option (the T option) that New Westminster council has endorsed? Why would we even consider the other three options we have presented?
  • Could you address the concerns raised about the public consultation session held in New Westminster on November 18?
  • When is the actual deadline for the federal money to go away? How does that work?
  • What happens next?
  • There may be property acquisition needed as part of this project. Can you talk about the process involved with that?
  • How does this project fit into the big picture of the North Fraser Perimeter Road?
  • How much is this going to cost?

Read Jhenifer’s interview with Sany on the Buzzer blog for the answers.

I remain skeptical that the UBE is good for New West, and wish that TransLink would focus its efforts on building the Evergreen Line rather than invest more on widening roads in and around Coquitlam. Still, I have to say I am impressed that TransLink has taken the time to respond directly to New Westminster’s concerns, both by adding another public consultation session (Tuesday, December 7, 2010, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Justice Institute of British Columbia) and through the Buzzer blog.

No matter how this turns out, I’m proud of the citizens of New West for pressing for answers to their questions. Too often apathy is our worst enemy. I’m proud of the folk of New West for showing up to those consultation sessions and speaking up online and through other channels so that City Council and TransLink could hear and consider their concerns.

Yonah Martin nabs Senate seat

 

Former Conservative candidate in New Westminster-Coquitlam Yonah Martin is among the three newly appointed senators from B.C. 

Here’s the quick version of her bio on the CBC story:

Yonah Martin is a Coquitlam schoolteacher who has been active in the Korean-Canadian community. She served on the Multicultural Advisory Council of B.C. and ran as a Conservative candidate in the constituency of New Westminster-Coquitlam in the last election, but lost by 1,500 votes to NDP incumbent Dawn Black.

This round of Senate picks is controversial because Prime Minister Stephen Harper has always insisted that senators should be elected, not appointed. The CBC explains:

 

The prime minister, again heading a minority government, said he filled the vacancies to prevent a potential Liberal-NDP coalition from getting the opportunity.

He had held off filling the 18 vacancies in hopes of reforming the Senate to make sure members are elected, but he has been unable to pass any legislation to that effect.