The City of New Westminster has no plans to reopen the debate about the controversial United Boulevard extension, but needs to consider ways of dealing with traffic congestion in that area of the city, says Mayor Wayne Wright.
Following a Feb. 9 engineering assessment on the Bailey Bridge, the City of New Westminster closed the one-lane bridge to vehicular traffic. Engineers who inspected the bridge discovered a couple of "fairly significant splits" on two of the truss members, splits the city attributed to excessive wear and tear.
Jim Lowrie, the city's director of engineering, said the repairs are being done this week. He said the cities of New Westminster and Coquitlam are cost-sharing the work, which is expected to cost $30,000.
"It's probably a couple days work," he said. "At the same time, we are going to do some deck replacement."
Several media outlets interviewed Wright about the closure of the Bailey Bridge, with one report stating that New Westminster was once again looking at the United Boulevard extension.
Lowrie said New Westminster is not reconsidering its stance on the United boulevard extension.
"TransLink has consulted in the past couple of years," he said. "The community rejected that proposal."
Although the city rejected the United Boulevard extension, Wright said something needs to be done to address traffic congestion near Braid Street and Brunette Avenue. He questioned whether the City of New Westminster could consider closing Braid Street at Brunette Avenue, which would require vehicles to access the industrial area by going into Coquitlam and using the new King Edward overpass.
"Maybe there's a different method, a way that we can make the changes necessary and not create the same traffic difficulties that are there now?" he said. "I don't know what that is, but we are actually going to be looking at all the new things we can think of."
Wright said he hadn't talked to any councillors or city staff about the idea of restricting traffic from accessing the industrial area via Braid Street.
"It creates what is supposed to be there - that is an outlet for the industrial lands," he said.
According to Wright, the city has about two years to decide what do with the Bailey Bridge.
"It has a lifespan of between 20 and 22 years," he said of the temporary structure. "Ours has been there between 17 and 18 years."
The Bailey Bridge, which provides access to the Braid industrial area from New Westminster and Coquitlam, was built as a temporary structure.
"What we need to do is look at the complete transportation system, which that is one small part of - we have to look at the train tracks, we have to look at Brunette, we have to look at the lands that are in there, the industrial lands. We have to see how we make it work," Wright said. "That bridge is there for probably only two more years because that's the extent of the life of the Bailey Bridge."
Several people took to the City of New Westminster's Facebook page to comment on the Bailey Bridge, with some suggesting the one-lane bridge be replaced with a two-lane bridge to alleviate some of the congestion at Braid and Brunette, and another person suggesting the bridge can't handle much more traffic.
"Time for a real bridge rather than those twigs and Popsicle sticks bridge that's there now," wrote one resident.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart recently told the Coquitlam NOW that the two cities need to come up with a plan to build a permanent structure.
"This is what happens when you try and take a temporary piece of infrastructure and make it permanent," he said of the repairs.
Stewart said "we've presented several solutions so far to New Westminster and we're prepared to find a solution, but in order for that to happen New Westminster has to be prepared to accept one as well."
The bridge has been a contentious issue between the two cities for years. In 2002, New Westminster put up a gate that blocked vehicles from crossing into New Westminster from Coquitlam, but a judge later ordered the gate removed.
Stewart said a new four-lane bridge with an overpass for the train tracks was once proposed in the area, but New Westminster quashed the plan.
Lowrie told The Record Monday that the City of New Westminster hasn't considered building a permanent bridge at the crossing because it serves a "limited function" for the city.
The United Boulevard extension is a component of the North Fraser Perimeter Road, a transportation network that would run from United Boulevard to the Queensborough Bridge. It proposed changes near Braid and Brunette, which were opposed by many area residents.
Wright said transportation improvements in the area can't be done in a piecemeal manner and would require funding from other levels of government.
"When we turned that (United Boulevard extension) back, we didn't do that easily because we know the problems that are there for our industrial sites," he said. "We have to have a solution that does something positive. If you put a six-lane bridge there, what does that do? It does nothing. We'd be backing up Braid Street, we'd be backing up onto Brunette."
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