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Looking Back/Looking Ahead: Pattullo bridge’s future in the spotlight

Many New Westminster residents came out of TransLink’s open houses on the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge early in 2012 shaking their heads, feeling they were not given any real options. - NewsLeader file photo
Many New Westminster residents came out of TransLink’s open houses on the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge early in 2012 shaking their heads, feeling they were not given any real options.
— image credit: NewsLeader file photo

The Pattullo Bridge celebrated a milestone in 2012. The big question is how many more will it be around to mark in the future?

The decaying structure turned 75 on Nov. 15, 2012 amidst a great deal of concern for its health. There were differing opinions on whether or not to do major surgery on it, replace it with a newer model, or kill the crossing entirely.

The year started with TransLink, which operates the Pattullo for the province, proposing the narrow four-lane bridge be replaced with a six-lane structure.

TransLink presented the community with several options on where it would cross and where the entrances and exits would be. But they were all minor variations on what’s already there. The transportation authority said the replacement cost would be between $750 million and $1 billion.

While the trucking industry and the Surrey side seemed to be on board with the plans, a couple of workshops in February made it evident New Westminster residents and politicians weren’t.

The fear a six-lane structure would just serve to clog New Westminster’s already gridlocked routes with commuter traffic even further was strong. Mayor Wayne Wright and several city councillors kept hammering New Westminster’s views with senior levels of government, and even set up a summit with Surrey officials in December to hash the issue out.

It would seem their concerns were heard. Despite its warnings of the bridge being too unsafe to fix, TransLink relented and put the proposed replacement plans on hold late in the year. Instead, the transit authority announced it was doing a new assessment to see if it was possible to extend the Pattullo’s life by a couple of decades with safety and seismic upgrades which, if done, would reduce the Pattullo to three lanes.

The bridge was also front-and-centre late in 2012 with the new tolled Port Mann Bridge opening. All year long many in the city feared commuters would flock to the Pattullo Bridge to avoid paying to cross the Port Mann, and anecdotally those fears appeared to be coming true when the new crossing was opened in early December.

The Pattullo made lots of noise in New Westminster in 2012, and the din isn’t likely to die down in 2013.

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