On Thursday (May 19), a large and determined group of New Westminster residents gathered to find out what design TransLink would be pushing for the first section of the North Fraser Perimeter Road. Instead, the crowd burst into boisterous applause when Sany Zein, TransLink’s director of roads, announced that TransLink would cancel the North Fraser Perimeter Road portion of the Gateway Program because local residents and New Westminster council would not support it.
New Westminster residents have proved a force to be reckoned with. Mayor Wayne Wright referred to the first NFPR open house as “a donnybrook”—slang for a mass brawl. It was this outspoken opposition that forced provincially controlled TransLink to back off on the United Boulevard extension, the first phase of the NFPR in New Westminster. If they had proceeded it would have cost about $175 million for a short stub of freeway and an overpass that would feed more traffic onto the already congested New Westminster street network.
“This is an example of what is possible when you get citizens involved in important issues. Now is the time to go back and focus on public transit,” said Andrew Murray, a member of the Council of Canadians’ New Westminster chapter. “We also need to fix the dysfunctional way TransLink operates; this needs to be an issue in the upcoming provincial election.”
Roadway expansion is one of the main drivers of increasing greenhouse gas emissions in B.C. and globally. While our provincial politicians talk about cutting carbon emissions, the reality is that they are often spending our money to increase the emissions that threaten the stability of our climate.
Until recently, the NFPR and the whole Gateway freeway megaproject looked unstoppable. Work is continuing on the $3-billion Highway 1 freeway widening which includes the replacement for the Port Mann Bridge. Despite vigorous resistance by local residents and legal action by the Burns Bog Conservation Society, work on the $2-billion South Fraser Perimeter Road freeway continues in Surrey and Delta. However, as the price of gas soars and concern about global warming mounts, spending billions on roadway expansions may no longer look like such a great way for politicians to get re-elected.
The people of New Westminster have shown that “unstoppable” projects can be stopped with determined resistance. Now it is time to stand up and demand an end to the Gateway freeway megaproject. Our limited resources should be invested in thing like electric trains and public transit, not on making global warming worse by spending billions on freeways.