TransLink seeks to better explain its Pattullo decision

Patrick Johnstone gives instructions to protesters rallying in Sapperton Park against TransLink plans to build a new, expanded Pattullo Bridge. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Patrick Johnstone gives instructions to protesters rallying in Sapperton Park against TransLink plans to build a new, expanded Pattullo Bridge.

TransLink's offer to talk about "practical options" for the Pattullo Bridge with the cities of New Westminster and Surrey won't derail its plans to pursue a six-lane replacement of the aging structure.

In a letter to New Westminster council earlier this month, TransLink director for roads Sany Zein offered to bring all the sides together. But he maintained the 75-year-old structure still needs to be replaced and that's why a second round of open houses is continuing this week despite the planned three-party summit.

"We have been listening to the concerns expressed by council, city staff and the residents of New Westminster and we understand we need to better explain the work we have done so far," said Zein on Monday.

Zein said TransLink has done a lot of analysis over the last six years in coming to its conclusion and is inviting New Westminster and Surrey to the table to explain its many technical reports on the current structure and all the options that have been proposed.

"We arrived at a solution that we think is the best one, but we want to make sure everyone is comfortable with that decision," said Zein. "We obviously have heard the concerns and the questions being asked: why replace, why this location, what is the function, why are there trucks on the route ... why not a Surrey-Coquitlam connection or a Surrey-Burnaby connection? A lot of technical work has already been undertaken, and we will be delving into it in more detail if need be."

In addition, Zein said TransLink is willing to work with the city on determining how New Westminster will be able to cope with the increase in traffic levels a replacement bridge would bring.

TransLink held two open houses last week, including one at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall on Saturday. Another was to be held there Tuesday with a final one at Simon Fraser University's Surrey campus Wednesday, 2 to 8 p.m.

On Saturday, about 100 people opposed to TransLink's plan gathered at Sapperton Park and marched to the hall before it was started where TransLink greeted them with coffee and cookies.

"It was a successful event in that we had a really good turnout. I saw a lot of people that I don't usually see at these type of events, which is great," said spokesman Patrick Johnstone.

He said many of those in the rally wrote their opinions down on the panel boards that outlined TransLink's proposed options. Johnstone is hoping TransLink's next report to its board will include the loud voice that the six-lane option is not wanted in New Westminster. He said the proposed Pattullo plans go against TransLink's own goals such as those outlined in its own Transport 2040.

"TransLink is in a difficult situation right now. There's a lot unresolved about what TransLink's role is and what TransLink's future is," said Johnstone. "They need to think bigger about the whole transportation system and not just plug holes where they see them."

The New Westminster rally organizers also got some support from the other side of the river from the Surrey Citizens Transportation Initiative.

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