New Westminster-Coquitlam Bailey bridge alternative proposed

The existing two-lane bridge on Canfor Avenue over the Brunette River would be a key link in a proposal by Braid industrial area business for a new link to Coquitlam. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
The existing two-lane bridge on Canfor Avenue over the Brunette River would be a key link in a proposal by Braid industrial area business for a new link to Coquitlam.

The Braid Business Association (BBA) has come up with an alternative to replacing the beleaguered one-lane Bailey bridge that crosses the Brunette River connecting New Westminster to Coquitlam.

In a letter that went before city council Monday, the organization proposed United Boulevard be connected to Canfor Avenue instead. However, the suggestion would require purchasing a 150-metre-long slice of right-of-way along the Brunette River from Port Metro Vancouver, which owns the former Canfor sawmill property.

Paving that stretch would allow traffic coming from Coquitlam to cross the Brunette River over an existing two-lane bridge on Canfor Avenue and then reconnect to Braid at a ‘T’ intersection at the east end of Canfor.

“The problem businesses in the area endure daily is a lack of timely access to and from their businesses and restricted emergency services access due to the traffic volumes, several daily train events and poor driver etiquette of those commuting through this corridor,” states the letter written by BBA president Russ Bain. “This issue is driving businesses out of the area and reducing real estate values.”

But when the BBA mentioned the idea to the city engineer staff, “they didn’t have much of a response to it,” said Stan Weismiller, BBA executive member and co-owner of Winvan Paving in an interview Monday. “It’ll be hard to get them off their position of doing nothing.”

Weismiller said since there’s already a bridge across the Brunette on Canfor Avenue, it doesn’t make sense to build another one. “Why do you want to cross the creek twice?”

Not building another bridge also makes sense, he said, particularly if improvements to the Brunette/Highway 1 interchange currently underway reduce the demand on Braid.

Today, the area is so jammed up, Weismiller said, that many drivers find it more convenient to deal with the possibility of a train crossing backup at Brunette and Braid than use the freeway.

MAP: The business group proposes linking United Boulevard with Canfor Avenue (shown in red), which would enable trucks to access Braid Industrial Area from United more easily.

“That’s what traffic is doing, finding the path of least resistance, but there’s still a lot of resistance,” said Weismiller. “It blocks access out of here, totally, because if you get a train event, you’re stuck.”

He noted drivers also avoid the current Brunette/Hwy 1 exchange because it’s so dangerous. According to ICBC statistics, it’s the worst crash site in Coquitlam with 2,118 motor vehicle accidents between 2007 and 2011.

Both the city and the region have to step up and do something about the bottleneck, he added.

While Mayor Wayne Wright was correct to assert the city’s position on the proposed United Boulevard Extension in 2011, they now have to help find a solution, he said.

“Somebody needs to take a leadership role here and stand up for the residents and businesses in the area that are affected. It’s not only us but the people in Coquitlam too.”

Weismiller said the current traffic jams along the route are a deterrent to business in the area and the city risks losing more of its industrial tax base if a solution isn’t found.

In its letter, the BBA concedes that the land acquisition could come at a high cost, and the negotiations could delay implementing a solution.

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