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Linking the 'Boro to city riverfront

Resident suggests a gondola would be a good tourist draw

Gavin Palmer wants the city to consider a different sort of "people mover" when the time comes to connect the riverfront to Queensborough.

The City of New Westminster received approval for five projects through casino funding known as development assistance compensation. One of the priorities that has been identified is a pedestrian bridge between New Westminster's waterfront and Queensborough.

Palmer would like the city to consider alternatives such as a gondola or chairlift. In addition to moving residents, he said it could be a tourist attraction.

"A people mover is basically a phrase I coined because that is what we are doing - we are moving people from one side to another," he said. "Doesn't this have to be a bridge? I don't think so."

Palmer worries that transportation regulations may require a pedestrian bridge to be of a height that would make it inaccessible for some people.

"If you are trying to encourage people to walk over and use that thing, you don't want it to be difficult," he said. "To me, a gondola would be good. You have inclement weather - people are protected."

The development assistance compensation negotiated by the city provides $10 million for the project, which has a timeline of 2013 to 2015.

Palmer doubts a pedestrian overpass could be built within that budget. He noted a gondola is being explored to take people from the Production Way SkyTrain station to Simon Fraser University.

"People are starting to think about other means of transportation. It is not out of the question," he said. "It becomes a bit of a tourist attraction."

Palmer, president of the Queensborough Residents' Association, believes more people would explore Queensborough's bike trails and visit Starlight Casino and Queensborough Landing shopping centre if they had pedestrian access to Queensborough.

"I am putting the idea out there, saying there are some other alternatives," he said.

"You have to be prudent when you are dealing with city funds."

Lisa Spitale, the city's director of development services, said the city would be willing to look at options other than an overpass as long as they adhere to the principles that have to be met as part of the development assistance compensation agreement. She said the connection to Queensborough has to be a pedestrian link and it has to be a barrier-free link between the downtown and Queensborough.

City staff has been focusing its efforts on the first three development assistance compensation priorities: $5 million in parkland improvements in Queensborough; $35 million for a multiuse civic facility in the downtown; and $6.2 million for expansion of the Queensborough Community Centre.

The final two priorities include $10 million for a Queensborough waterfront pedestrian bridge and $4 million for riverfront dock and facility improvements.

With staff devoting much of their time planning for the multi-use civic centre, it's expected that they will begin work on planning for priorities 4 and 5 in mid2012.