COLUMN: New Westminster's traffic discussion must dig deeper

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How long can we keep this up?

Can New West keep telling its suburban neighbours to buzz off—say we’re not willing to be a thoroughfare? Not willing to accommodate their growing desire to use our city as the fastest route from A to B?

For how long can we continue to stifle the travel needs of Burnaby (pop. 223,000), Surrey (468,000) and Coquitlam (126,000) as those cities continue to grow, grow, grow?

The latest episode in this dysfunctional family dynamic might be titled The Strange Case of the Bailey Bridge, and features Coquitlam as a protagonist.

But first let’s take a look around the Royal City a moment, and get a sense of how we appear to our car-travelling neighbours.

In a nutshell, we are one massive curb bulge, the world’s largest speed bump.

Vehicles in Burnaby, for instance, trundle happily along four-lane Kingsway then slam up against 12th Street, where they encounter two lanes, curb bulges and jaywalkers.

Canada Way into Eighth Street isn’t much better. And for those coming from Griffiths Avenue to 20th Street en route to the Queensborough Bridge, the constricted lanes and bizarre traffic patterns are literally like running a gauntlet. One can just imagine the city’s traffic engineers’ sinister laughter as they mess with people’s heads.

Surrey folks no doubt have their own gripes, especially now the Pattullo Bridge’s future is being actively discussed.

You what?, they might ask. You want to refurbish it as a three-lane crossing with a counterflow? You’d like to scrap it altogether? You want to move it somewhere else?

When it comes to traffic talk, New West has few friends among its neighbours.

We’re like a 15-square-kilometre spike belt. The ones who barf in the punch bowl at the party.

And then we get the most comical image of all. If the rickety, one-lane Bailey bridge doesn’t symbolize New Westminster’s relationship with the rest of the region, it’s hard to imagine what does.

Though Coquitlam has offered for many years to buy a new two-lane bridge, New West keeps saying no.

It’s one reason politicians and residents in that city turn their heads and spit—hacktooey—when New West is mentioned.

And to be fair, the Bailey bridge crossing over the Brunette River, which links the Braid industrial area with United Boulevard in Coquitlam, has been a fiasco for ages.

Really, who ever heard of a one-lane span connecting two cities’ industrial parks in the centre of a major metropolitan area? And on the Coquitlam side there’s a rapidly growing big-box retail area, and soon there will be the redevelopment of Fraser Mills into a residential community housing thousands of new drivers poorly served by transit.

So far, we’ve been able to say we don’t care what any of those folks think.

We’ve rejected the United Boulevard Extension. We’ve rejected TransLink’s plans for a six-lane Pattullo.

And we’ve put our foot down, insisting the Bailey bridge must stay until a proper solution for traffic flow is found.

But we need to dig a bit deeper into this issue than we have so far. Seek some lasting solutions. Because all it takes is a heavy-handed provincial government to dismiss New West’s concerns as an unnecessary impediment to the regional movement of goods, and start pounding through new lanes and bridges.

Let’s be ready.

• Chris Bryan is the editor of the NewsLeader.


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