New Westminster residents say 'no' to Pattullo Bridge plan

It was a full house at the Justice Institute Thursday night for the discussion of New Westminster
It was a full house at the Justice Institute Thursday night for the discussion of New Westminster's Master Transportation Plan, and in particular, the future of the Pattullo Bridge.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NEWSLEADER

New Westminster residents sent a loud and clear message Thursday night that they don't want TransLink to build its proposed six-lane replacement of the Pattullo Bridge.

Even better, most said, demolish the old one and don't replace it.

It was standing-room only at the Justice Institute of B.C.'s theatre, which has a capacity of 200, for an open house and forum put on by the City of New Westminster. The purpose was to discuss the city's Master Transportation Plan (MTP), but that was just the opening act for what everybody came to talk about, the Pattullo Bridge.

The city had abstained from taking part in TransLink's process on the Pattullo because, the city claimed, the transportation authority's workshops weren't about public consultation. So the city included theirs as part of its MTP open houses at Century House on Thursday afternoon and the JI in the evening.

All but one speaker at the evening meeting opposed TransLink's plans, and the biggest applause was for demolishing the structure without replacing it.

Coun. Jaimie McEvoy, co-chair of the MTP committee, was a little surprised at the overwhelming sentiment of the audience at both sessions but not totally.

"I expect it would be a sentiment, but I wasn't sure if the city had the confidence in what they want out of the process," said McEvoy after the meeting. "TransLink really tried to put this city in a box and congratulations to the city for seeing what the city is trying to do in insisting it be heard."

West End Residents Association president Elmer Rudolph was the last of the audience to take the microphone and pointed out Vancouver residents stood up in the 1960s to oppose running a freeway into Downtown Vancouver. Now, 50 years later, visitors praise how wonderful the city is because of the decision not to build it.

"It's time for the citizens of New Westminster to stand up and take the same principled decision. Despite what the experts say, [closing the Pattullo Bridge] will work," said Rudolph.

One woman said, "New Westminster is very much a small town atmosphere in an urban setting. As more and more traffic passes through they create a bigger and bigger divide for a small city."

Another audience member pointed out the original business case for the Pattullo Bridge in the 1930s was to provide a way for farmers to get their goods to market in New Westminster. Since that's no longer the case, he wondered what the business plan is for replacing it. "Why should it be replaced? Why is it there?"

The lone speaker in support of replacing the bridge was Queen's Park Residents Association president David Brett.

"What are we saying to the rest of our neighbours if we're against transportation of goods through our city?" said Brett.

He was concerned if the city is adamant in its stance it could take it itself out of the region's transportation equation.

"Let's not be so closed-minded that we shoot ourselves in the foot, and traffic will be backed up. I don't think it's reasonable to say we don't want a bridge."

The city presented eight options Thursday for the audience to ponder. The first two were TransLink's proposals for a six-lane bridge, two of them dedicated to trucks, that would either be upstream or downstream from the current structure.

Brian Patterson, a consultant hired by the city to put together the MTP, said those options are expected to cost up to $750 million, although at its workshops in Feburary, TransLink said it would be $800 million to $1 billion.

The other options were:

• Rehabilitating the bridge at a cost of about $200 million;

• Demolish the bridge and build a four-lane replacement with accommodation for cyclists and pedestrians upstream or downstream of the current structure, which is estimated would cost about $650 million;

• Demolish the bridge and don't replace it;

• Demolish the bridge and replace it with a structure that runs from South Surrey to Sapperton via Sapperton Bar, which TransLink says would cost about $2 billion;

• build a bridge using Marine Way and Meadow Avenue in Burnaby to access Tree Island on the Richmond/New Westminster border and then onto the Queensborough Connector (cost unknown).

"It's obvious we're in a battle with TransLink. We didn't ask for this. We want to be able to have a dialogue," McEvoy told the audience at the end of the evening.

He later said he would like to see the Tree Island option explored because it would clear up a lot of congestion.

Earlier in the week, TransLink sent a notice to stakeholders that it was postponing its next set of information sessions about the Pattullo Bridge, originally scheduled for May 8 and 9, until June so it can review the results of New Westminster's meetings.

Also earlier in the week, Mayor Wayne Wright sent a letter to TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis saying:

• the city does not accept TransLink's consultation and decision-making process so far;

• the city disagrees with any Pattullo Bridge option that increases vehicular capacity;

• TransLink and the province should work together to make a direct connection from the South Fraser Perimeter Road and the Port Mann Bridge instead of forcing a circuitous route that would likely result in truckers leaving the SFPR at the Pattullo and go through New Westminster to avoid the extra mileage;

• a consensus on how to fund the Pattullo project should be reached before any more planning and design is done;

• and TransLink should work with the province and city to develop "physical or other changes" to mitigate the diversion of drivers looking to avoid the tolls on the Port Mann Bridge.

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