New Westminster has a grand plan to make its Fraser River waterfront more accessible for walkers and cyclists.
A few months ago, the city opened a pedestrian bridge connecting Westminster Pier Park to Columbia Street at 4th Street.
The next step is demolishing 40 percent of the massive Front Street Parkade.
"It's all part of a larger waterfront strategy for New Westminster," Mayor Jonathan Cote told the Georgia Straight in a recent interview as he overlooked the parkade. "We want to connect our waterfront to our neighbourhoods."
Once the western portion of the parkade is removed, the city plans to create "Front Street Mews". It will include new street-parking stalls, a wider sidewalk, and landscaping.
According to Cote, the broader goal is to make it easier to walk or cycle from Sapperton northeast of the downtown to Westminster Pier Park, which opened on the waterfront in 2012. And from there, it could become possible to walk or cycle safely all the way to Queensborough, which is a neighbourhood southwest of downtown on Lulu Island.
Queensborough is the centre of the city's historic Sikh community. In recent years, it has become a significant shopping destination.
"We're working on a Q2Q pedestrian bridge to link the quay at the waterfront to Queensborough," Cote said. "And we're also working to connect Sapperton Landing, which is another riverfront park, to Westminster Pier Park. If we can connect our city along the waterfront and connect our waterfront with our neighbourhoods, I think we're going to have something very special out here."
The city would prefer the Q2Q to be a bascule bridge (i.e. a drawbridge), which is estimated to cost $10.5 million. It would be built beside the rail track connecting the north side of the Fraser River with Queensborough.
One of the benefits of the project is that it will reduce traffic congestion in a city that already has nearly half a million vehicles passing through it every week day.
In a report to council in February, engineering-services director Jim Lowrie stated that discussions "are ongoing" with Southern Railway of B.C. to operate the pedestrian and cycling bridge. It's expected to be completed in 2017.
He noted that $6.2 million is "expected to be available" from development-assistance compensation funds from the casino in Queensborough. This means another $4 million to $4.5 million would have to be generated through fundraising, grants, or a capital program.
A City of New Westminster brochure says that the Q2Q bridge will give downtown New Westminster residents and tourists better access to riverfront trails in Queensborough.
"From a regional transportation perspective," the brochure notes, "the bridge will link greenways on the north and south side of the Fraser River and the New Westminster SkyTrain Station to Queensborough. It will also provide enhanced access along the scenic Fraser River and complete a key missing link in the Experience the Fraser trail system running from Hope to the Salish Sea."