Translink abandons United Boulevard Extension
In my email inbox this morning was good news from New Westminster Environmental Partners’ Andrew Feltham
… tonight [Thursday May 19, 2011] TransLink announced that they could not find agreement on how to build the United Boulevard Extension (UBE) through New Westminster and they will not be recommending to the Councils of New Westminster and Coquitlam that they can proceed with this project. The planners have been asked “to put their pencils down”. Further it was pointed out that the entire North Fraser Perimeter Road (NFPR) through New Westminster is not a priority as declared by the Mayor’s council which directs TransLink. (This was not news, but reiterated that there was never a priority to do anything about the rest of the road system in the City even if the UBE was built).
I would like to say that TransLink, their consultants and staff carried out the most detailed series of consultations that I have ever participated in and it seems that, in the end, they did listen to the community. Further the community deserves a lot of credit for coming together and articulating the issues and making TransLink aware that the projects they favoured would not solve the traffic issues they sought to address.
From a sustainable transportation perspective it is perhaps encouraging to note that many have recognized that its not easy, if not impossible, to solve traffic congestion problems in New Westminster by simply building more roads. The issue is not finished. The traffic problems still exist at Braid and Brunette, as well as air quality and rat running problems in Sapperton. The industrial area is still overrun with traffic, making the busineses there less viable. We do need to keep talking about solutions to these issues, but at least we now have the opportunity to start to talk about other ways to allow people and goods to move through our community without destroying the quality of life, or simply making things worse. The City can now move forward with its Master Transportation Plan to establish a vision how transportation in our City should evolve, meeting both local and regional needs. I hope everyone will be part of this process and to explore the variety of options which have been implemented around the world to deal with transportation congestion in urban areas.
Let’s make this our “Vancouver moment” and create the change in transportation thinking which is so needed in our City and region.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the community workshops, and wrote letters or emails to TransLink, the City, and the local papers.
The foregoing paragraphs have been lightly edited for clarity.
I would add that it has long been recognized that building roads in urban areas can never solve traffic problems. Induced traffic always results in continuing congestion. Only reducing road capacity and our reliance on personal automobiles has ever lead to traffic reduction and less congestion. This as true in New Westminster as any other urban area. It is perhaps unfortunate that Translink does not recognize this truth and continues to pursue road network expansion projects such as the proposed 6 lane Patullo Bridge. On the other hand at least they backed down: unlike the province which continues with its destructive South Fraser Perimeter Road and threatens to issue injunctions against those who try to draw attention to its folly.