Province plans to build new overpass in New Westminster

West End Residents’ Association is thrilled  pedestrians and cyclists could finally have a safe way to cross Stewardson Way.

Representatives from the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure attended a council workshop on Monday to update the city on plans to build a pedestrian and cyclist overpass over Stewardson Way, near Grimston Park.

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“We are still coming up with our actual schedule. We should have more detailed information in the coming weeks,” said Elena Farmer, a Lower Mainland operations manager with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. “We are hoping for it to be open sometime next year.”

The ministry is still working out the details on some aspects of the overpass, such as how it can be made more esthetically pleasing and whether it will include lighting.

 “I think it’s great,” said Coun. Bill Harper. “This has been, I don’t know how many years in the making, 15?”

Coun. Patrick Johnstone, chair of the city’s advisory committee for transit, bicycles and pedestrians (ACTBiPed), supports the project which includes a connection to the B.C. Parkway, but he would like to see better connections between the overpass and the West End neighbourhood and Grimston Park.

Mayor Jonathan Cote said he sees the city playing a “fairly large role” in ensuring the overpass integrates into the neighbourhood.

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr said he’s seen people “risking their lives” crossing Stewardson Way. He wants crime prevention through environmental design considered in the design so people feel comfortable using the overpass.

“I think lighting is important,” he said. “You really need to bring in lighting. Don’t build a structure that, at night, seniors and women will feel more comfortable crossing the road than taking the overpass. That is counterproductive.”

On the topic of the B.C. Parkway, 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.

Cote said the overpass has been a “bit of a loose end” since work was done on the north side of the Queensborough Bridge and he’s looking forward to seeing it built.

Back in 2008, the federal and provincial governments funded changes to Highway 91A at Howes Street and at the Queensborough Bridge north bridgehead as part of their goal of improving the transportation of goods in the region. When the project was complete, the city identified the lack of a pedestrian crossing on Stewardson Way, between River Drive and Grimston Park, as a key issue resulting from the project.

Council passed motions put forward by 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.

The province’s decision to build the overpass is being welcomed by the West End Residents’ Association, which has been pushing for an overpass for more than a decade. In an email to the Record, the association’s secretary treasurer stated a crossing across Sixth Avenue and Stewardson Way was eliminated when changes were made to the north end of the Queensborough Bridge.

Gavin McLeod said a replacement above-grade access was promised but not delivered, with money being the biggest barrier.

“Jaywalking across Stewardson Way is common and is dangerous due to the volume and speed of traffic,” he said. “It seems that 16 years of effort are about to be rewarded.”

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