New Westminster balks at suggestion of United Boulevard extension

TransLink has apologized for striking fear in the hearts of city officials by suggesting the United Boulevard Extension is being reconsidered - but has warned that plans need to be undertaken to address truck traffic on the north side of the Fraser River.

On Monday, city council agreed to send TransLink a staff report that addresses its regional transportation strategy and expresses concern about the reference to the North Fraser Perimeter Road/United Boulevard extension in the "strategic framework" document.

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"Two of the three identified regional priorities are located in New Westminster, including the Pattullo Bridge and a 'long-term solution to address goods movement along the north shore of the Fraser River'," stated the staff report about TransLink's document.

The City of New Westminster has conveyed its opposition to North Fraser Perimeter Road and the United Boulevard as part of an expanded goods movement corridor along the Fraser River through New Westminster. Planning being done by the city regarding the downtown and waterfront does not include the North Fraser Perimeter Road.

TransLink is currently updating its regional transportation strategy, which lays out a long-range vision for the region's transportation and transit networks.

Bob Paddon, executive vice president of strategic planning and public affairs at TransLink, told council Monday night that TransLink would "be pleased" to act on the city's request to remove the wording from the document. He said the reference to finding a "long-term solution to address goods movement" on this side of the Fraser River wasn't meant to imply support for the United Boulevard Extension or North Fraser Perimeter Road.

Paddon said it was never TransLink's intent to bring back "unpopular memories" of the past process, and apologized the wording in the document caught city officials by surprise.

"We need to find some solutions," he told city council Monday night. "Those trucks are not going to go away by doing nothing."

In May 2011, TransLink said there would be no United Boulevard extension in New Westminster in the foreseeable future, after city council and residents expressed concern about the impacts the options being contemplated would have on the community.

Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said there needs to be better integration of transportation and regional planning.

"I appreciate the trucks aren't going away," he said. "I think New Westminster's position is we don't have space for anymore."

Coun. Bill Harper said that having a truck route along Front Street is a "huge problem" for the development of the downtown and waterfront, an area that TransLink has classified as a regional city centre. He said there doesn't seem to be much appreciation on TransLink's park of the city's efforts to demolish part of the parkade and connect the downtown to the waterfront.

"I don't think we have the ear of anybody at TransLink on this issue," he said.

Harper said Front Street is one of the "most toxic" area in the Lower Mainland in terms of air quality.

Although trucks are private operators, Paddon said TransLink can help direct them to specific routes by developing policies and alternatives to travel patterns.

"We are going to have to find some viable alternatives - that is why we included the references we did," he said. "We are not saying North Fraser Perimeter Road."

Jim Lowrie, the city's director of engineering, said the city is looking at truck routes as part of the master transportation plan that's currently underway in New Westminster and the city will share that information with TransLink.

"That should be coming up within the next few months," he said.

The United Boulevard extension, a project that aimed to improve congestion and traffic movement between Coquitlam and New Westminster, is one component of the North Fraser Perimeter Road, a series of transportation initiatives that would stretch from United Boulevard to Queensborough Bridge.

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