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New West getting set to open Agnes Street greenway

City fielded more than 200 questions about project before Phase 1 even opens

The City of New Westminster is getting a lot of feedback and questions about the Agnes Street greenway – and it hasn’t even opened to cyclists.

To support walking, wheeling and cycling, the city is creating a new 1.2-kilometre greenway along Agnes Street. Construction of the first phase of the interim greenway started in December and is nearing the finish line.

“Construction of the interim treatment is anticipated to be complete within the next week or so,” Lisa Leblanc, the city’s manager of transportation, said in a Jan. 19 email to the Record. “The interim greenway has been constructed through a ‘quick-build’ process using low-cost, temporary design elements.”

The greenway will include a two-way protected bicycle lane for cyclists, improved sidewalks for pedestrians, and new landscaping, trees and street furniture, such as benches. It’s being built in two phases:

* Phase 1 runs along Agnes Street, starting at Dufferin Street in the east and connecting south onto Lorne Street before terminating at Carnarvon Street. It’s being built using temporary design elements, before permanent design takes place in the summer.

* Phase 2 will extend the greenway to the New Westminster SkyTrain station and the Fraser River esplanade, connecting the Victoria Hill neighbourhood and Pattullo Bridge replacement to SkyTrain and the waterfront.

Leblanc said the greenway is being built in two phases to allow people to benefit from the separated bike lanes as soon as possible. She said the interim treatment will also serve as an engagement tool while the city completes the design for the permanent installation.

Leblanc said the phased approach will give area residents and other community members a chance to experience the changes to Agnes Street and to provide informed feedback based on their experiences. She noted that planning processes and documents don’t always do a good job in showcasing how a concept like this may look, feel and function.

“It is important to acknowledge that we are in the beginning stages of the design process for the Agnes greenway project and that we understand that the construction of the interim greenway has resulted in big changes to how residents may use the street,” she said. “Building an interim greenway presents a unique opportunity for community members to experience what is possible for the greenway, and for the project team to actively monitor how the interim greenway design is working for all road users and make adjustments in response to issues and concerns.”

No shortage of questions

As of Jan. 21, more than 200 people had contacted the city for information about the project through the project’s website, 83 of whom engaged by responding to questions or sharing information.

To date, Leblanc said the city had received 93 questions and had responded to most of those queries. A rough breakdown of the themes indicates there were questions about transit (21), traffic (12), parking (23), school (13), technical feedback (12) and miscellaneous issues (12).

Garey Carlson, a member of HUB Cycling New Westminster, recently wrote to the Record to thank the city for the greenway. He said it will be a wonderful addition to the city’s active transportation network.

“The current and future cyclists, pedestrians and micro-mobility users need safe spaces to move, and the Agnes greenway provides that,” he wrote. “This is a long overdue, critical section of a downtown-to-uptown route and what will be a safe and comfortable route to Victoria Hill and the Pattullo Bridge, when the new bridge is complete. I look forward to more of these projects being built in our community.”

Some residents, however, have voiced concerns on social media about the project, such as the rerouting of buses and increased traffic on neighbouring streets. (Agnes Street has been converted to one-way, westbound traffic between Merivale and Sixth streets.)

Leblanc said the project team will continue to monitor the interim treatment throughout Phase 1. In response to concerns raised by some residents, she said the city has already made changes to transit service and is continuing to work with TransLink and Coast Mountain Bus Company to revise the alternate routing.

The city encourages residents who are interested in the project to register on its Be Heard engagement site, as they’ll be the first to know about opportunities to provide feedback.

“The engagement process has only just started, and we look forward to launching a community survey on the project site in the coming weeks,” Leblanc said.

Phase 2?

While Phase 1 of the greenway will be in place in 2021, Phase 2 is a few years off. It will extend the greenway an additional 550 metres west to 10th Street and south to the riverfront.

“We anticipate completion of Phase 2 in alignment with redevelopment of properties at Eighth Street/Carnarvon and completion of the Bosa Pier West site on the riverfront,” Leblanc said. “That will be several years from now.”

The greenway is part of the city’s commitment to sustainable transportation and climate emergency response. It’s listed as a priority in city council’s 2019 to 2022 strategic plan and the Downtown Transportation Plan, which was approved in 2020.