New Westminster taking a fresh look at Front Street's future

Truck traffic on Front Street could diminish now if the city has its way.

TransLink recently declared that since it couldn’t find a solution acceptable to itself, New Westminster and Coquitlam, that it would shelve plans for the United Boulevard Extension (UBE), despite extensive community consultation. Since neither the extension nor the North Fraser Perimeter Road through the city are in TransLink’s long-term plans, the City of New Westminster is considering both ideas dead.

“That’s our position right now. It’s not in the planning stages, it’s not in TransLink’s 10-year plan or even 40 year for that matter,” said Mayor Wayne Wright. “In some ways it’s good for us. Now we can consider how do we make the best of the Front Street corridor.”

The projects may have received the final nail in their coffins from Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom this month.

Coquitlam council recently asked Lekstrom to intervene saying the projects were important to the regional economy.

However, Lekstrom, in a reply to an email from Mary Ann McKenzie who asked the minister not to intervene, wrote: “As United Boulevard (Extension) falls outside the ministry’s jurisdiction and under that of TransLink, the ministry has no plans to interfere with TransLink’s decision not to pursue this project at this time.”

Responsibility for the portions of the NFPR involving the Lougheed Highway, Mary Hill Bypass and United Boulevard in Coquitlam belong to the province.

The NFPR was eliminated from the TransLink financial plan in 2009, but when the federal government offered $65 million to help build the UBE that portion of the project was revived temporarily.

Now that TransLink has abandoned the UBE the NFPR “is back to where we were in 2009 and TransLink is not doing any more work on it,” TransLink director of roads Sany Zein told the NewsLeader.

City of New Westminster chief engineer Jim Lowrie said in light of the developments staff will be reviewing the role and function of Front Street.

“It is expected that this will likely result in a reclassification of Front Street to a more local serving street with restrictions and/or prohibiton of commercial truck traffic,” said Lowrie in an email.

Zein said while Front Street is strictly a municipal road and not part of the area’s major road network, any attempt to reduce or prohibit commercial truck traffic needs TransLink’s permission. He said most of the truck traffic through New Westminster is making local trips.

“There is no highway. They need to be there, otherwise they would be on higher level roads that are much faster,” said Zein.

Wright said the tough part for New Westminster in changing Front Street is finding out what happens with TransLink’s proposal to build a new Pattullo Bridge because its access and exit points could affect Front.

“It’s hard to make any plans [until the Pattullo Bridge decision is made],” said Wright.

Zein said TransLink is proceeding with its plans to replace the Pattullo and will work with the city on the details of how the bridge will connect to New Westminster.

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