British Columbia

TransLink puts major road expansion on hold

TransLink says plans for a major road expansion through New Westminster and Coquitlam are on hold until the two communities can agree on a solution for the United Boulevard Extension.
TransLink has cancelled a plan to put a four-lane roadway in New Westminster, B.C.'s oldest neighbourhood, the CBC's Belle Puri reports 2:10

TransLink says plans for a major road expansion through New Westminster and Coquitlam are on hold until the two communities can agree on a solution for the United Boulevard Extension.

The  project is intended to link the arterial route with the Brunette Avenue to keep trucks and other through-traffic off local New Westminster streets.

The project was the first phase of the North Fraser Perimeter Road, but now the entire project is on hold, according to TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie.

"We had argued and succeed in getting $65 million in federal funding to help build it. If the United Boulevard Extension doesn't go forward then what we told the people last night is that we would not proceed with the North Fraser Perimeter Road at all," he said.

Residents opposed to extension

The expansion of United Boulevard has met opposition, because it would have increased traffic through parts of New Westminster and resulted in the demolition of some homes in the Sapperton neighbourhood.

Geoff Pinkerton, president of the Sapperton Residents Association says he found out the project is now on hold at a meeting with TransLink on Thursday night, but the threat to shelve the project is fine by him.

"The residents were absolutely shocked at the abrupt end to the fight we had had. None of the proposals that they had brought forward had any positive benefits to the people of New Westminster," he said.

But Pinkerton says he believes it's a hollow victory, because he expects the United Boulevard Extension will eventually be built, because TransLink has just one year to spend the $65 million dollars the federal government has committed to the project.

Sent back to councils

TransLink says a series of extensive community consultations failed to find a solution and it is now handing the issue back to the cities of New Westminster and Coquitlam to decide what to do.

"TransLink is recommending that New Westminster and Coquitlam councils consider this finding and provide any further advice on the ultimate decision to proceed or not proceed," said Hardie.

Hardie said they had two goals going into public consultation.

"One - to come up with a connector that would work for traffic. And another that would work for the Sapperton community. We really concluded that there was no option that worked for both purposes," he said.

TransLink supported a plan to build an overpass, "however, limited support for this concept was expressed by the community," said a statement issued by Hardie on Friday morning.   

A second option to move the connection closer to Highway 1 was rejected by TransLink after an independent study found it would increase traffic delays.

"After extensive analysis and community input on options for the United Boulevard Extension in New Westminster, TransLink has concluded that there is no project option that currently meets the needs of both the regional road network and local interests," said the statement.

Patullo Bridge replacement moved back to 2020

The announcement follows TransLink announcement earlier this week that it plans to spend $1 billion replace the Patullo Bridge into New Westminster by 2020, rather than 2015, as previously announced.

Translink says it recently received a study by an independent engineering firm, which was looking at all of the options for the crossing, that confirmed replacing the aging Patullo was the best option.

"Refurbishing the existing bridge would cost $200 million or more, and at the end of it we would be able to move less traffic, simply because of the technical limitations of the current Patullo Bridge," said Hardie.

He couldn't say how the project would be funded, but said tolls would be a last resort.

New Westminster residents say that will result in more traffic coming from Surrey through their community because the other main bridge over the Fraser River, the Port Mann, is being replaced with a new tolled structure.