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Construction starting on BC Parkway improvements in New West

Ready to roll: Cyclists and pedestrians have been seeking improvements to the BC Parkway in New Westminster – and it’s happening.

Work is getting underway this week on a stretch of the BC Parkway where pedestrians and cyclists have seeking improvements for years.

TransLink and the City of New Westminster have announced work is beginning on major upgrades to a section of the BC Parkway. The 737-metre section of Stewardson Way, between River Drive and 14th Street, will receive significant improvements for all modes of active transportation.
“Improving the BC Parkway so that people can continue to walk, bike, and roll safely is key to creating healthier communities,” TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn said in a news release. “We are excited to work with the City of New Westminster on this project to encourage active transportation and get people out of their cars.”

The Stewardson Way upgrades will include: closing a gap in the BC Parkway between Fifth Avenue and 14th Street; widening the existing path to feature separate lanes for cyclists and pedestrians; repaving intersections along the route; and adding pathway lighting, new retaining walls, and new traffic signals at Fifth Avenue.

“The BC Parkway is a vital transportation route for the city,” said New Westminster Mayor Patrick Johnstone. “Along with other upgrades, this addresses a long-lamented gap on the route – protecting vulnerable road users from adjacent heavy traffic on Stewardson Way while also improving the experience for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers alike.”

The project aligns with New Westminster city council’s 2023-2026 strategic priorities plan by improving the safety and accessibility of a key transportation route. It also meets the city’s active transportation network plan objectives to improve the safety, comfort, and convenience of active transportation infrastructure.

With increased usage of the BC Parkway over recent years, this portion of the parkway has been identified as a candidate for upgrades due to its narrow width and proximity to Stewardson Way, stated TransLink.

According to TransLink, the BC Parkway Stewardson Way upgrades project was made possible with the collaboration of Southern Railway of British Columbia (which made a key section of land available for active transportation) and from the City of New Westminster (which identified Stewardson Way as an area in need of upgrades and contributed funding for the construction).

Construction will begin this week.

“Construction work is expected to be completed as soon as late 2024, depending on weather conditions,” said TransLink’s project overview. “Work will take place Monday to Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; some overnight and weekend work may also occur as required.”

The Record has reached out to TransLink about the budget for the work and the steps being taken to ensure the safety of parkway users during construction. More to come.

Longstanding concerns

New Westminster residents, cyclists and pedestrians have been calling for improvements to the BC Parkway for more than a decade.

In February 2013, city council approved a recommendation from the city's advisory committee for transit, bicycles and pedestrians to direct city staff to explore short-and long-term options to resolve the safety and accessibility concerns affecting the portion of the B.C. Parkway between 14th Street and Fifth Avenue. At that time, it was agreed staff would continue to discuss the situation with TransLink and Southern Rail.

The city’s advisory committee had raised concerns about safety and accessibility, noting the high volumes of traffic and the considerable truck traffic on Stewardson Way and the narrow width of the pathway that runs alongside Stewardson Way. 

In 2018, the West End Residents’ Association welcomed the province's construction of a new pedestrian overpass, which allowed cyclists and pedestrians to cross over Stewardson Way near the Queensborough Bridge. (Pedestrians and cyclists had no way of crossing Stewardson in that area, after changes were made to the north side of the Queensborough Bridge in 2008.)

In August 2018, members of Walkers' Caucus New Westminster celebrated the completion of that overpass but noted the fight for better pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure in this area was far from over. It stated improved signage and safety improvements to the B.C. Parkway between the new overpass and Third Avenue were still needed.

In 2018, council passed motions put forward by then-councillor Patrick Johnstone to direct staff to report back on plans to connect the overpass into the existing pedestrian and cycling connections around Grimston Park and the West End, and to review work needed on the existing B.C. Parkway.

At that time, Johnstone said he'd like staff to report on improvements to one particular section of the route on Stewardson Way between 14th Street and Fifth Avenue, suggesting it's "quite sub-optimal" and in need of improvements.