TransLink to reopen Pattullo Bridge options discussion
TransLink has invited the cities of New Westminster and Surrey to review all practical solutions for the Pattullo Bridge crossing.
The invitation follows a meeting between Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom, Mayor Wayne Wright and other members of New West city council two weeks ago in which Lekstrom promised to facilitate a summit of sorts.
However, despite the invite, TransLink has been pressing on with the second round of public consultation on its proposed six-lane replacement options, all of which would include two 'truck priority' lanes.
TransLink is currently holding meetings with community stakeholders, as well as public open houses. The New Westminster open house sessions will be held at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Tuesday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Coun. Jonathan Cote, co-chair of the city's master transportation plan committee, said he's not sure if Lekstrom's intervention was the motivation behind the letter, but he welcomed the invitation. He feels the combined effort from the city and its residents played a large role.
"New Westminster has raised the bar on where this discussion needs to go," said Cote. "It's a positive sign of TransLink at least appearing to be able to come to the table and have a more thorough discussion about the Pattullo Bridge. This is exactly what we were hoping for when we started this process, that it would lead all the partners back to the table."
Cote said if TransLink's intentions are genuine then lane capacity and the bridge location should be back on the table.
"We'll have to see how it goes," said Cote. "I don't want to be overly optimistic because TransLink hasn't changed its position on what it feels is the best option.
Although the province won't be involved, Cote said Lekstrom promised he would be prepared to come to the table. Cote said he hopes with both New Westminster and Surrey in the discussion that a solution to satisfy both cities can be found, possibly involving light rapid transit for Surrey along with a scaled-down Pattullo Bridge project.
"This is the opportunity to have New Westminster talk directly to Surrey to see what actually can contribute to those communities and find a win-win for both communities," said Cote. "I also think it's very important that the residents continue to engage in this issue and still participate in TransLink meetings on this."
That is something New Westminster Environmental Partners is also encouraging. The organization is encouraging residents to show up at 10 a.m. Saturday.
"We need to show the city is still united and for TransLink to hear it directly Saturday morning," said past president Patrick Johnstone.
He pointed out TransLink has not looked at the implications of its options to the road system on both sides of the bridge.
"We have not seen a comprehensive costing of all the options," he said. "We need to discuss the direct costs of no bridge, of three lanes, of four lanes and a six-lane bridge."
However, he also said New Westminster residents have to make sure they aren't making their problem someone else's because it's a regional issue not a local one.
Johnstone was one of those that participated in a stakeholders meeting with TransLink earlier this week. He said the only new information the transit authority brought forward was which of the six-lane options it had presented that the public preferred in previous consultations.
"They gave us the same old spaghetti bowl of plans and told us which flavour of spaghetti we liked best," said Johnstone.
He was a bit baffled as to why TransLink held the meetings since the invitation to open up the discussion to other options had already been sent to council.
"I'm not sure how they reconcile those two," said Johnstone.
On Monday, council backed a motion by Coun. Chuck Puchmayr calling on neighbouring municipalities to ask the province to intervene to create an independent assessment for connecting the South Fraser Perimeter Road directly to the new Port Mann Bridge. Current plans call for SFPR traffic to join Highway 1 at 176th Street in Surrey and back track to the Port Mann. Council is fearful truck drivers will use the Pattullo unless a convenient connection is constructed or they are banned from the bridge.
In its letter to New Westminster, TransLink said it "is prepared to establish a collaborative process with the Cities of New Westminster and Surrey to undertake a comprehensive review of the following:
• All practical solutions for crossings and crossing locations
• Bridge capacity and lane allocations
• Implications of current and future projects (including South Fraser Perimeter Road/Port Mann/Highway 1 connections) and rapid transit projects
• Through traffic, particularly truck traffic, in the municipalities
• Consistency with local and regional objectives and consideration of priority relative to other regional transportation initiatives
TransLink also wrote:
At the same time, we propose that further work be under taken by the parties to work out matters that would need to be addressed in a timely manner. These include:
• Traffic management
• Road network connections and upgrades
• Pedestrian and bicycle connections
• Neighbourhood traffic impact mitigation
• Aesthetics and urban integration
• Baseline information for environmental assessment