Two significant infrastructure improvements have opened in the past week, and unlike the usual changes to transportation corridors, these ones directly benefit pedestrians and cyclists.
Cyclists and pedestrians can now use a multi-use pathway over the new Port Mann Bridge. It opened on Wednesday.
This pathway was promised way back when the B.C. Liberal government, under then-premier Gordon Campbell and then-transportation minister Kevin Falcon, announced plans for the new bridge and Highway 1 improvements, under what was called the Gateway program. That announcement was made in January 2005, prior to the provincial election.
The three-metre wide barrier-separated path connects to United Boulevard and Lougheed Highway on the Coquitlam side, and to 112 Avenue in Surrey via a new path along the top of Johnston Hill on the north side of Highway 1.
The path has been much-delayed, largely due to the complicated overpass and access structure on the Coquitlam side of the bridge. The many changes and improvements there are the reason Coquitlam-bound traffic has had to get into separate lanes east of 152 Street and travel across the bridge on those separated lanes.
Work at that end of the bridge still isn’t complete, but the finish date is getting closer.
When the bridge project was announced, Falcon made a point of saying it would be accessible to pedestrians and cyclists – unlike the former bridge. He also pledged transit service across the bridge, a promise that has been kept, albeit minimally.
Until last fall, there was no transit service across the bridge from Surrey and there is still none from Coquitlam. The one bus route that crosses the bridge is the 555, which goes from Carvolth exchange in Langley, stops at 156 Street just off Highway 1 and then terminates at Braid Station in New Westminster. While it is possible to get a bus from Braid to Coquitlam, it’s time-consuming and few transit riders bother.
The other transportation corridor improvement is in White Rock. The city has completed two improved pedestrian crossings of the BNSF railway tracks to allow beach-goers safer access to the portion of the beach west of the pier.
These have been pursued since a Transport Canada inspection of crossings, following the death of a jogger two years ago, called for major improvements. There are now much better crossings at Oxford and Anderson Streets.
Despite the improvements, people continue to trespass on the tracks, always a foolish thing to do. The city has already spent $500,000 on these two crossings and has ambitious plans to spend about another $2 million more to improve crossings in the East Beach area and at the pier.
During this time of year, White Rock is often jammed with people. However, there is no need to ever walk on the tracks or stray away from the existing crossings. While trains that go through the area do not travel at high speeds, they are unable to stop if there is someone on the tracks.
There is a wonderful walkway along the length of the beach, and now there are crossings to make it even easier to access.
Both sets of infrastructure improvements will allow more people to get out and enjoy the fresh air and outdoors as pedestrians and cyclists. Plaudits are due to the various levels of government who have made them happen.
Frank Bucholtz is the recently retired editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Surrey Leader. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org