NWEP to TransLink: “Plan First, then build”

New Westminster Environmental Partners is celebrating the review of the Pattullo Bridge replacement as a potential first step in a smarter Metro Vancouver transportation policy.

“We really must have a thorough discussion about transportation priorities in the region” said NWEP Vice-President Matthew Laird, “and rushing a project that would create a 50% increase in traffic flowing through New Westminster’s clogged streets wasn’t a solution.”

“While there’s no doubt there are important safety concerns that needs addressing with the current bridge, NWEP has always held that any Pattullo project must not result in a net increase in capacity. No region in the world has ever built themselves out of congestion, so the idea of investing hundreds of millions of dollars in roads that will quickly become gridlocked is not prudent fiscal planning, especially as Translink has numerous unfunded projects of higher priority, such as the Evergreen Line.”

“Translink’s infrastructure investments must be focused on getting cars off the road to meet their own 2040 goals. Translink should not be expanding capacity for vehicles while ignoring the role of transit and other modes of goods movement. Translink needs to realize they simply can’t afford these projects and they have much higher priorities in the region including completion of the Evergreen Line and the provisioning of drastically improved bus service in Surrey, including connections to the Expo Line. These priorities would also reduce the need to build the NFPR and take the pressure off the existing Pattullo Bridge.”

New bridge or not, NWEP is calling on Translink and the province to implement tolls on the Pattullo in 2013 upon completion of the new Port Mann Bridge. “Tolls on the Pattullo are essential to keep traffic where it belongs, on the new 10 lane Port Mann Bridge. Without them New Westminster risks being flooded with commuter and truck traffic.”

“The NFPR in New Westminster is proving that road capacity building in dense urban centres is not affordable or desirable and the Pattullo Bridge fiasco is demonstrating the fallacy of the Provincial road tolling policy which insists on always providing a free alternative, no matter what the cost, a billion dollars or more.”

The Provincial Government’s request that Translink delay a decision on the Patullo comes on the heels of New Westminster City Council sending Translink back to the drawing board on another local project that would increase traffic in New Westminster: the proposed $170 million United Boulevard Extension. Council’s position, reiterated at Monday’s meeting, was that New Westminster could not accept increased traffic on the proposed NFPR route until a complete plan for the route has been presented by Translink.

“Our local politicians court the promises of the NFPR –encapsulations, tunnels, etc, as if it were the second coming. Its time to put decade-old faith-based solutions aside and look outside the box for real solutions to New Westminster’s and the region’s traffic problems,” said NWEP Transportation Group Chair, Andrew Feltham. “Only by making better use of our existing transit, roads, rails and waterways will be enable the movement of goods and people to coexist with a livable vibrant City.”

“Plan first, then build” says Laird, “The idea of pushing a project forward to meet an arbitrary budgetary timeline makes little fiscal sense during this time of fiscal prudence. 2011 is the year New Westminster is updating it’s Master Transportation Plan, let’s have the discussion about how we want to develop a livable, family friendly city before shovels go in the ground or any public dollars are spent on ill-conceived projects.”

Feb 7 motion
Translink letter United Boulevard NFPR

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