The City of Burnaby is in the process of drafting a new municipal transportation plan, and it has dismissed the continued inclusion of the municipal government’s decades-old concept of establishing a direct road connection between the new Patullo Bridge and the Trans-Canada Highway.
The so-called Stormont-McBride Connector, was planned as a freeway standard link between Highway 1’s Gaglardi Way interchange and the northern foot of McBride Boulevard at 10th Avenue.
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The four lane roadway would run on ground level, through a forested area with streams, between Highway 1 and the intersection of Newcombe Street and 18th Avenue, where it will transition into a cut-and-cover tunnel.
The tunnel would run under Newcombe Street south of 18th Avenue, and emerge at 10th Avenue to connect with the northern end of the existing McBride Boulevard, providing a new connection through New Westminster to the Pattullo Bridge.
The entire route between Highway 1 and the bridge is roughly five kilometres long, including about 2.5 km of new surface and tunnelled roadway north of 10th Avenue.
This connector route was included in Burnaby’s transportation plans in 1979 and 1995, and since the early 1980s the municipal government has been acquiring residential properties along the east side of Newcombe Street to support future construction.
It was also studied by the BC Ministry of Transportation in 1998, and briefly considered again by the provincial government for the Highway 1/Port Mann Bridge Gateway project in the 2000s and TransLink as part of the Pattullo Bridge replacement early in the 2010s.
But city staff, in their latest analysis performed this year, believe such a connector route would not have the intended effect of diverting traffic from existing surface roads.
“The project would be an incentive for more driving, increasing vehicle-kilometres travelled,” reads a city staff report in September 2020, noting it would also produce more crashes and emissions. “Trips by transit and active transportation would be reduced because driving would be made more attractive.”
“Alternative routes such as Canada Way and Cariboo Road are not expected to see a significant reduction in traffic. The primary impact is forecast to be the creation of a stronger link between Marine Way and Highway 1, and onward to Coquitlam, with increased volumes on 10th Avenue. Rather than providing local relief, the Connector would draw in more regional traffic.”
Burnaby has gained two SkyTrain lines since it formed its first transportation plan, and in more recent years there has been a greater focus on public transit, walking, and cycling, with relatively limited changes to the existing arterial road network.
The City of New Westminster previously stated its opposition to the connector route over concerns it would increase regional traffic streaming through its jurisdiction. For the same reasons, New Westminster has been adamantly against a larger Pattullo Bridge with more lane capacity.
The new Pattullo Bridge, with the same number of lanes as the existing four-lane bridge built in 1937, is only expected to result in a minimal increase in traffic compared to the existing bridge.
The road connections at both ends of the new bridge in New Westminster and Surrey will remain largely the same with relatively minimal improvements. The wider bridge lanes separated by a centre median will allow for a slight uptick in bridge capacity.
Daily traffic volumes on the new bridge are expected to reach 78,000 upon opening in 2023, up by 1% compared to the existing bridge’s previously peaked volumes of 77,000 daily.
By 2045, traffic volumes will rise to 85,000 per day.
“Unlike other regional bridge projects such as Golden Ears or Port Mann, the primary objective for the Pattullo Bridge replacement is not to provide increased capacity. It is to replace an aging structure with one that meets current standards,” states the report.
The new replacement bridge will carry a cost of $1.4 billion. Although city staff have not provided a cost estimate, the Stormont-McBride Connector and improvements to McBride Boulevard could carry a comparable cost to the new Pattullo Bridge, if not greater.
“Due to its regional function and high cost of the project, it has been Burnaby’s position that the project would need to be constructed by either TransLink or the Province. To date, neither organization has shown interest in doing so,” continues city staff in their report.
“The project has never been included in TransLink’s long-term strategy. The Province declined to include the Connector in the Port Mann/Highway 1 project, and has shown no other interest in the Connector.”
Construction on the new Pattullo Bridge will begin before the end of this year, and the existing seismically vulnerable crossing will be demolished shortly after the opening of the new structure. The deck of the new bridge is designed with the capability to allow for a future widening to six lanes, accomplished by narrowing the existing four lanes and pushing the pedestrian and cycling pathways outwards onto a cantilevered deck.