Municipal politicians discuss Pattullo Bridge alternatives

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      Municipal politicians see the future of the Pattullo Bridge differently depending on which side of the Fraser River they’re standing on.

      From Surrey, Coun. Marvin Hunt says a bigger replacement for the four-lane span that links his city and New Westminster makes sense.

      “We’ve been through all this before,” Hunt told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “And all of the other options were quite expensive, and the one that was the best option was replacing the Pattullo with another bridge just immediately upstream, where Surrey is wanting it to be six lanes, so that traffic can flow.”

      For New Westminster councillor Lorrie Williams, a new Surrey-Coquitlam crossing may work better.

      What’s best, according to Williams, is to first create a master plan that covers the Pattullo, the Port Mann Bridge connecting Coquitlam and Surrey, the Alex Fraser Bridge connecting New Westminster and Richmond with Delta, and the Bailey bridge over the Brunette River connecting New Westminster and Coquitlam.

      “The Pattullo Bridge is not one entity that you can deal with and say, ‘Here, that’s solved,’ ” Williams told the Straight by phone. “It’s like stepping on a balloon—it pops somewhere else.”

      With a new round of public consultations on alternatives to the Pattullo happening through June 28, taking a broader look at the region’s transportation issues is an idea that Gordon Price, director of SFU’s City Program, wants to promote.

      For Price, a former Vancouver councillor and a member of the first board of the regional transportation body TransLink, there are important policy questions that need to be settled first.

      The first is about road tolls. During the campaign for the May 14 election, B.C. Liberal premier Christy Clark announced as part of her platform that Metro Vancouver residents would vote in a referendum next year on new funding sources for public transportation.

      According to the SFU academic, current revenue streams for TransLink cannot pay for a new bridge. “You don’t get anything in transportation for half a billion dollars,” Price said in a phone interview with the Straight. “You got to get a nice, big, round number: one, one-and-a-half billion [dollars]. And that’s certainly what this bridge is going into.”

      Then there’s the matter of changing patterns in car use. Price noted that there’s been a dramatic decline in what’s called vehicle miles travelled in the U.S. as well as in parts of Canada, particularly in Vancouver, where there are good transit alternatives.

      “We’re down to 1965 levels of traffic coming in and out of Vancouver,” Price pointed out. “Now that’s not an analogy for the Pattullo. But given that we’ve got a lot of new infrastructure coming on-stream, that’s going to have an impact on traffic patterns. We are seeing some changes certainly in young people’s attitudes towards driving.”

      Options mentioned by Hunt and Williams are among the 25 alternatives laid out in a discussion guide released on June 3. The document was prepared by a joint review team composed of staff from TransLink and the cities of Surrey and New Westminster.

      “One of the things that we heard from the public was that they want to see everything,” TransLink spokesperson Derek Zabel told the Straight by phone about the outcome of a public consultation last year.

      Out of the 25 choices, the review team is recommending six options for further consideration. All six require tolls.

      These include a new six-lane bridge close to the current Pattullo location. It could cost up to $1.1 billion. Also among the recommended options is a new four-lane Surrey-Coquitlam crossing in combination with a rehabilitated Pattullo Bridge of two to three lanes. This has a price tag of $1.5 billion.

      The discussion guide also includes the option of decommissioning the bridge without any replacement, estimated at no more than $70 million. The document likewise mentions another choice that involves converting the span for exclusive use by pedestrians and cyclists. This would cost up to $330 million.

      However, neither of these is being recommended for consideration by the review team because they will not generate revenues.

      According to the discussion guide, the 76-year-old Pattullo Bridge may not be able to withstand a moderate earthquake or a ship collision. About 73,000 vehicles pass over it each weekday; 10 percent of these are trucks. The bridge also doesn’t meet current roadway guidelines. There have been a number of fatal collisions on the span.

      The City of Vancouver hasn’t taken a position regarding the Pattullo. But Coun. Geoff Meggs agrees that it’s a good idea to take a comprehensive look at transportation links, including the privately owned New Westminster rail bridge over the Fraser River near the Pattullo. The rail crossing carries cargo and passenger traffic.

      “The goods movement is just as important as the commuter movement for the future of the region,” Meggs told the Straight by phone. “But we often look at them separately.”

      The first of six open houses on alternatives to the Pattullo Bridge will be held on Thursday (June 6) at New Westminster’s Sapperton Pensioners Hall (318 Keary Street). The three-hour event starts at 5 p.m.



      Eric Doherty

      Jun 6, 2013 at 9:21am

      It should be noted that the least costly options are the obvious ones - just fix it! Two, three and four lane options are on the table (with three and four lanes being recommended for further study). All include better cycling and pedestrian facilities.

      Steve Cobon

      Jun 6, 2013 at 11:57am

      Adding the lanes works but get rid of the curves at both ends of the bridge. Straighten out the approaches from both sides of the river. Sometimes you wonder if the people making the decisions about this have ever driven across the bridge.

      Mike Puttonen

      Jun 6, 2013 at 12:52pm

      Unfortunately, the expensive option is so much better for everyone than the others. King George would go straight down the hill instead of veering left to the Patullo - down to Bridgeview street, the perfect approach for a bridge over to 'Fraser Mills', where there is plenty of land available, and direct access to Hwy 1, Lougheed and the Skytrain lines.

      Dave Stewart-Candy

      Jun 6, 2013 at 3:49pm

      No more toll bridges - which are basically a tax on people, who due to the high cost of living in this city, are forced to live and commute from the Fraser Valley because because they cannot afford to live closer to work in the city. We already pay for these bridges through gasoline taxes.

      my views aren't too lengthy for this box

      Jun 6, 2013 at 6:54pm

      1) build a bigger bridge
      1a) and more roads
      2) everyone buy more cars
      3) move further form where you work
      4) as oil increases in price repeat 1-3


      Jun 6, 2013 at 8:39pm

      How about deconstruct the old Port Mann. Refit, repair, enhance, and then reconstruct in place of old Pattullo.

      Reduce, reuse, recycle.


      Jun 6, 2013 at 10:45pm

      Nothing but toll bridges. Why should those who may never use them have to subsidize those who do? Transit and ferry users have to pay their share; why not bridge users?

      Lee L.

      Jun 6, 2013 at 11:24pm

      My views are not lengthy either.
      The 'cars are evil spewers of noxious death gas' crowd want to make it very difficult to drive. Congestion is their friend. Plug up the roadways as best you can. Ram bike lanes down the main arterials, sacrificing driveable road space, slow traffic and toll and choke wherever you can. They are zealots, like Gordon Price.

      They didn't do the math, for if you removed every single car from the roads of the entire lower mainland, including Richimond, Surrey, Metro, Langley and so on. If you remove them all and forever, the greenhouse offset you achieve is equivalent to half of one coal fired electric plant. China brings a new one of those onstream every 5 days. It will build another 350 or so. India will build 450 of them. Germany is building 12. Which half of which one of those plants would you want to offset? Oh there is a caveat. You must not stop buying the fuel the cars used to use. It would have to be bought and an ever increasing volume of storage tanks built to sequester it, for if it isn't sequestered, then it will be sold in the USA or shipped overseas to China ( world's number one consumer of cars) and in either case it will be burned in THEIR cars rather than ours. Net offset = LESS THAN ZERO.

      Dicking around over the Patullo to 'move away from cars' is a futile and delusional exercise.

      Finally, we live in an empty country. It needs filling up with people who 'move further from where they work'. Guess what? Maybe the apparent reduction in vehicle use in and out of the downtown core has less to do with transit and more to do with businesses that have ALREADY moved out of the core for the cheaper and car accessible suburbs.

      Just my views.

      Tom Garvey

      Jun 7, 2013 at 12:08pm

      Due to the condition of the patullo Bridge and it's narrow lanes , it would be advisable to restrict any large trucks . They could use either the Alex Fraser or Port Mann bridges which would reduce the stress on the Patullo Bridge .