No to Bailey bridge option: New Westminster council
New Westminster council has declined B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone’s conditional offer of two temporary Bailey bridges between the Royal City and Coquitlam.
New West closed the one-lane bridge across the Brunette River that connects Coquitlam’s United Boulevard to the Braid Industrial area for safety reasons in March.
The city thought it had lined up a replacement Bailey bridge from the province but last week, Stone informed New West it must also accept installation of a second one to create a two-lane connection.
The two cities have been at loggerheads for years over the crossing. New West wants to keep it at one lane because it says increasing the capacity would create additional congestion for the busy Brunette Avenue and Braid Street intersection. The dispute has headed to binding arbitration with a decision to be handed down before July 1.
“Adding additional capacity would only make the situation worse,” Mayor Wayne Wright wrote in the city’s response to Stone. “A recent study conducted for the cities of Coquitlam and New Westminster found that a two-lane crossing could see an increase of traffic of up to 80%, which would raise congestion back to unacceptable levels.”
Wright said the city spent $30,000 in material and equipment in anticipation of the arrival of the bridge the province had promised to provide without the condition it was now imposing.
Wright asked Stone to honour that commitment by Tuesday. He suggested the province could provide a temporary bridge and postpone any decision on an additional bridge until the arbitrator makes a decision.
New West Coun. Chuck Puchmayr called the province’s position "blackmail" at Monday’s council meeting while Coun. Bill Harper said Stone’s acceptance of Coquitlam’s position is inappropriate.
“Intervening in an arbitration in the middle of a process is a little like intervening in a court trial and actually taking sides in a court trial,” said Harper. “That is, quite frankly, unforgivable… He is taking sides and that is completely inappropriate.”
Yesterday, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said he was surprised New West council didn't give Stone's proposal more consideration, especially given the traffic safety issues in the area.
By rejecting the two-bridge offer, Stewart estimates the Royal City will now be on the hook for more than $1 million. "The solution would be benefitted both cities and at no cost to New Westminster," he said.
Stewart said he believes New West council is delaying the decision in order to prevent any construction around the Brunette River during the summer fisheries window.
– with files from Janis Warren, The Tri-City News