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Let's not turn New Westminster into a ghost town
It's time to take a long hard look at reality for the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge.
I read that New Westminster City Council does not want the bridge replaced. They do not reflect the majority of residents and certainly not the business owners. The online survey had a mere 210 respondents, the majority of which do not even use the bridge. I hope council is not basing its opinion on a survey that reflects a miniscule fraction of the total population.
New Westminster lies at the geographic centre of the Lower Mainland, which is why many businesses locate here. The population here cannot support all the businesses. For businesses to thrive they need customers from other municipalities. Simply put, if you make it difficult to do business in New West the businesses will move away. If businesses disappear, residential taxes will increase. Any thriving community needs businesses to survive.
There are dozens of wedding shops along Columbia Street. Are there that many brides and grooms in New Westminster to support all of the shops? I think not. They need outside customers. Customers from Surrey. How do the Surrey customers get there? The bridge of course. What happens with the bridge gone? No more customers. No more wedding shops.
Hundreds of businesses in New Westminster rely on customers to cross bridges.
I understand the justified concerns of residents about increased traffic on residential streets. However, we can learn from what Langley has done with the bypass, what Vancouver has done with Pacific Boulevard, what Surrey is planning to do with the construction of its perimeter road. All these solutions direct heavy traffic along major routes and keep the traffic off smaller roads.
Unfortunately, previous city councils have made monumental blunders with traffic control. These decisions have been more politically motivated than for the good of the residents.
Obvious mistakes are:
• The narrowing of 12th Street and installation of crossing bulges—more businesses have closed along 12th in the last three years since the roadwork than in the previous 20.
• The position of the SkyTrain guideway along Stewardson—if Stewardson had been six lanes there would be no need for traffic to filter through residential streets
• By far the worst interchange in all of the Lower Mainland—the Queensborough Bridge/Sixth Avenue/20th Street nightmare. This interchange is a traffic planners' lesson in stupidity.
It's time to look to the far future, not the three-year election future. Some tough decisions have to be made, perhaps even unpopular ones. It's idealistic to think that people will start to walk more, take public transport more, bike more, but the reality is that cars are becoming less expensive, more efficient, cleaner and safer. It is human nature to move in our independent space—the automobile—and that will never change.
The best solution for the crossing is to put it at the foot of 20th Street, over to the eastern tip of Queensborough. It would serve a number of purposes.
It would eliminate the worst interchange in the Lower Mainland—access to Queensborough would be an off ramp. Bridge-goers from south Burnaby would not have to travel through New Westminster. Coquitlam bridge-goers would use the new Port Mann bridge.
And construction would have the least impact.
Let's really think about what we are going to do.
Let's capitalize on where we are, not turn this wonderful city into a ghost town.