Council keeps Q2Q crossing options open

Drawings for a Quayside to Queensborough pedestrian/bike crossing that would hook up with the Southern Railway of B.C. swing bridge connection between the two New Westminster communities - City of New Westminster
Drawings for a Quayside to Queensborough pedestrian/bike crossing that would hook up with the Southern Railway of B.C. swing bridge connection between the two New Westminster communities
— image credit: City of New Westminster

The city should build the Quayside to Queensborough (Q2Q) pedestrian and bike crossing option it already has the funds for, instead of chasing money for a more elaborate one.

That’s the opinion of Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, but his view was in the minority when council met on Monday.

Puchmayr wants the city to proceed with a Q2Q that would connect with the Southern Railway of B.C. (SRY) swing bridge.

The cost estimate is $5 million, which would be easily covered by the approximately $6.3 million expected to be available from casino Development Assistance Compensation (DAC) funds for the project. That money, however, is contingent on the crossing being completed by Dec. 31, 2016.

A Q2Q community consultation revealed a preference for a standalone drawbridge option that would run parallel to the railway bridge, but its estimated cost is $9.5 million. Council decided Monday to pursue further funding, possibly from federal infrastructure programs, for that option.

Coun. Jonathan Coté would likes the drawbridge option because it would be high enough to allow more small vessels to pass beneath it without requiring the bridge to open. And it would be wide enough to accommodate an emergency vehicle. He’s also concerned about attaching such an important structure to one it doesn’t own or have control over, especially if something were to happen with the rail bridge.

That said, Coté conceded that the more expensive option can only be done if more money is found and the city doesn’t have much time.

“Building a crossing over a river does involve certain regulatory bodies, and the community wants to see this crossing happen as soon as possible,” said Coté on Tuesday.

Although a staff report, which concluded the drawbridge was the best technical option, said a decision needs to be made by March, senior planner Mark Allison told council they would probably be able to push it until September 2014.

Councillors’ concerns about the rail bridge’s lifespan if the connected bridge is built are unwarranted, said SRY president Frank Butzelaar. He said his bridge has at least 50 years of life.

“That structure itself, although it may look like it has been there a long time, it’s been rebuilt piece by piece over the years so it’s a good solid structure,” said Butzelaar, who doesn’t have a preference for either option. “What we’re looking for is the best solution for the city of New Westminster and the railroad and we’re open to looking at either structure.”

Although council’s decision keeps both options on the table, Puchmayr likens it to buying a new car within budget but then the price escalates when all the bells and whistles are added on.

“We should just look to build it,” said Puchmayr. “I just think we need to take advantage of the gift of $6 million (in DAC funds) that no one else in the province has received for such a piece of infrastructure.”

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