Fredericton creating 45 parking spaces to encourage commuting across walking bridge

·5 min read
Station Road between Union and Barker streets has been closed as the city creates 45 parking spots and installs a wall that will have plants growing out of it. (Aidan Cox/CBC - image credit)
Station Road between Union and Barker streets has been closed as the city creates 45 parking spots and installs a wall that will have plants growing out of it. (Aidan Cox/CBC - image credit)

A popular section of multi-use trail in Fredericton is getting a facelift and more parking.

But not everyone is convinced creating dozens of new spaces to park cars is the right move to encourage more people to use the trail.

Municipal crews are working on a project to create 45 parking spaces along Station Road on the north side, along with planting flowers and shrubs to create what the city calls a "living wall" on the edge of the trail just past the north end of the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge.

According to city traffic engineer Tyson Aubie, the parking spots will accommodate trail users and allow easier access for commuting across the walking bridge.

The parking spaces could have a small positive impact on reducing the number of people driving from the north to the south side of the St. John River, said Benoît LeBlanc, president of the Fredericton Active Transportation Coalition.

But the city's efforts would be better served on improving the overall cycling infrastructure or creating a north side hub for bus services, he said.

Zoom/CBC
Zoom/CBC

"Improving cycle accessibility to the bridge will probably do far more in terms of augmenting the number of bridge crossings, if that is their goal," he said.

"If their goal is to help out a couple of people in their cars then I guess they will achieve that goal, but I'm not sure that that serves the community as a whole."

Improved access to bridge

The boat launch at nearby Carleton Park has long served as a parking lot for people who want to access the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge from the north side.

And last year, the city added 20 parking spots along Union Street in front of the same park.

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

The idea with the 45 spaces being created on Station Road is to give better access to the bridge for people with mobility issues, said Aubie.

"It was mainly a priority because [the walking bridge] wasn't as accessible to users as it could have been," he said.

"Let's say you were mobility impaired, there wasn't a really great way for you to just pull out, park somewhere and then get to the trail," he said, adding three of the spaces will be accessible parking.

Zoom/CBC
Zoom/CBC

Aubie said people were already using the land along Station Road to park informally, but it wasn't being done in an "efficient way."

Aside from persons with mobility issues, Aubie said, the parking spots are being created for people who might feel they live too far to bike or walk from home to the bridge but don't want to drive into the downtown.

"This is a great place that you could park in the morning, get on your bike, bike across the train bridge, get to work. So this opens it up for more people to use."

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

Aubie said improving the city's overall cycling infrastructure to make it safer to bike from other areas to the trails is also a priority, but he didn't give a timeline for any improvements other than to cite the project underway to add bike lanes to Brookside Drive.

"It's really high on our priority list, but in a lot of cases, if we're not completely digging the road up for a separate reason, it's hard to justify tearing up a perfectly good street to [create bike lanes]."

Aubie said the work on Station Road is expected to be completed in September.

It's one of 15 construction projects the City of Fredericton is working on this summer.

Fears about 'chaotic' traffic

Patricia Ward uses the trail often as it's a short walk from her home on Barker Street.

She said she thinks the trail could benefit from having 15 to 20 parking spaces, but thinks 45 is too many.

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

"It's good to have extra parking spaces but really, I think it's going to be a little chaotic in some ways, with a lot of people," she said.

Denis Gallant likes to walk the trail on his lunch hour during work, and he said he thinks the added parking spaces are a good thing.

"Not everybody lives in town so if you want people to come to town and walk and enjoy facilities you have to give them a place to park," he said.

Loss of trail visitor centre

Part of the work to create the new parking spaces involved removing the building that once housed the city's trail visitor centre.

City spokesperson Shasta Stairs said the city donated it to St. Mary's First Nation.

Kandise Brown, spokesperson for the Fredericton Trails Coalition, said the group typically hired summer students to work at the building and offer directions to trail users.

However, summer 2019 was the last time the centre was open.

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

"My understanding was that … some of the services that were offered by the coalition at that time in terms of like, you know, basically like tourist information, are either duplicated by the city's tourist information at city hall or superseded by cellphones and GPS, so it wasn't really a great use of resources," Brown said.

Brown said the coalition had a community engagement session recently, and participants were generally on board with having another centre established in another location.

"So we're very much in a listening phase and trying to think of what could be useful, and what we heard from, you know, from the neighborhood is that lights are useful, signage is useful, maps are useful."

Brown said the trails coalition is on board with the Station Road project, but said she'd also like to see streets upgraded with better cycling infrastructure to make it safer for people to bike to the trails.

"I think that there is a lot of work to be done to make those connections between the streets and the trails, to make them feel really safe and inviting to cyclists and pedestrians, but I still think that, you know, every step forward is positive."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting