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New Westminster endorses transportation initiatives

Plan puts pedestrians first, says Coun. Patrick Johnstone

The Royal City is putting pedestrians first in its transportation plan.
New Westminster city council has endorsed the proposed transportation priority capital program that’s been developed by the mayor’s transportation task force. In order to complete the items being recommended by the task force, it’s anticipated the city would need to increase the capital budget by $4.1 million from 2015 to 2018.
Coun. Patrick Johnstone said the task force has considered initiatives that are affordable, achievable and can make a difference in the short term.
“This is what it looks like when we put pedestrians first in our city,” he said. “That is what I want to see.”
Jim Lowrie, the city`s director of engineering, said the mayor’s transportation task force has been reviewing  the city’s master transportation plan and has extracted items deemed to be the “highest priority” for implementation in the near future. From that list of priorities, staff has developed a capital plan needed to deliver those items in the next four years.
Eugene Wat, the city`s manager of infrastructure planning, said the master transportation plan included 123 different actions to be undertaken by the city. He said the task force has narrowed those down to 12 to 20 actions it would like to see implemented between 2015 and 2018 as part of the city’s capital program.
The capital program includes initiatives in the Walkable City work plan, such as sidewalk improvements, curb let-downs and items in the Best Routes to School program.  The task force is proposing the city`s budget for sidewalk increase from $300,000 to $340,000 annually to improve sidewalks and add sidewalks in key lotions and increase funding from $125,000 per year to $210,000 so the city is able to complete all cur letdowns by 2018.
Coun. Chuck Puchmayr said he`d like staff to consider whether the city should draw on reserves to do the curb letdowns now, rather than deal with escalating construction costs if the work is done over the next few years.
Along with enhancing pedestrian opportunities in New West, the mayor’s task force supports the improving of cycling facilities in the city, including the Brunette Fraser Greenway and the Crosstown Greenway. As part of the “convenient transit work plan”, the city would work to install transit shelters, provide accessible transit stops and improve access to Sapperton SkyTrain station.
Other items deemed to be priorities include the development of a traffic plan for Sapperton, improved access to Royal Columbian Hospital through via priority traffic signals. Work under the Great Streets program, would include streetscape improvements such as wider sidewalks, curb bulges and landscaping along Sixth Street (between Queens Avenue and Sixth Avenue). The city will also allocate about $15,000 annually toward the creation of seasonal parklets, which involve the creation of public areas on spaces normally used for parking.