Extension must be built, says Stewart

Mayor Richard Stewart - TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Mayor Richard Stewart
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

TransLink’s decision to shelve plans for a United Boulevard Extension (UBE) connecting Coquitlam with New Westminster has not deterred Richard Stewart.

The Coquitlam mayor said he remains confident a resolution can be found in the dispute, which stems from New Westminster’s fears that expanding the connection will funnel traffic into the municipality.

“I am not one to give up,” Stewart said. “We are currently working with our counterparts to see how we can get this thing built.”

But Stewart isn’t optimistic a plan can be put together before federal dollars committed to the project are taken off the table.

When the North Fraser Perimeter Road (NFPR), which includes the UBE, was taken out of TransLink’s financial plan in 2009, Ottawa said it would contribute $65 million to ensure the project moved forward.

The prolonged dispute between Coquitlam and New Westminster and TransLink’s recent decision now puts that funding in jeopardy, Stewart said.

The city of Coquitlam recently asked the transportation ministry to intervene, saying the project is important to the regional economy.

But Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom’s responded that the UBE falls outside the ministry’s jurisdiction and the issue should be handled by TransLink.

Stewart said he was not surprised by the minister’s position but maintains the route is vital for business along the corridor and has been a provincial priority.

Even New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright acknowledged the current one-lane bridge connecting United Boulevard with Braid Street is not working, Stewart added.

“They know this has to get fixed,” he said. “They want to find solutions to a broader range of those challenges before agreeing to this.”

In the meantime, New Westminster is moving forward with plans for Front Street and its downtown, which have been stalled during UBE discussions.

Since neither the UBE nor the North Fraser Perimeter Road through the city are in TransLink’s long-term plans, the city of New Westminster is considering both ideas dead.

“That’s our position right now,” Wright told Black Press. “It’s not in the planning stages, it’s not in TransLink’s 10-year plan or even 40-year for that matter. In some ways, it’s good for us. Now we can consider how do we make the best of the Front Street corridor.”

– with files from Grant Granger, Black Press

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