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New West not enamoured with Coquitlam offer

Keith Whitely, an engineering technologist with the City of New Westminster, examines photos of the damaged section of the Bailey Bridge that connects to Coquitlam at the foot of Braid Street. The one-lane bridge has been closed to traffic until it can be repaired. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Keith Whitely, an engineering technologist with the City of New Westminster, examines photos of the damaged section of the Bailey Bridge that connects to Coquitlam at the foot of Braid Street. The one-lane bridge has been closed to traffic until it can be repaired.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

A New Westminster councillor isn't jumping for joy over Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart's offer to foot the $2-million bill for building a temporary two-lane Braid Street bridge to connect the two cities.

The one-lane wooden Bailey bridge was reopened Friday after it was closed Feb. 9 when engineers discovered a crack in its supports. Truck traffic, though, is not allowed.

Although it is in New Westminster, Stewart said his city would be willing to pay for a new bridge because goods need to be moved in the "most important" industrial area of Greater Vancouver, especially with the recent opening of the new Port Mann Bridge.

"These are goods-movement corridors that are vitally important for commerce," Stewart told News 1130. "To have a route bottle-necked by a one-lane Bailey bridge that could only handle alternating traffic for the last 18 years is unreasonable and unrealistic."

A temporary two-lane bridge, he said, could serve the area until a permanent overpass is developed.

Not so fast, says New Westminster Coun. Bill Harper.

For one thing, he said, Stewart still needs the support of his own council before making such a commitment. Secondly, it's likely a two-lane bridge would make one of the most congested intersections in the Lower Mainland, Braid and Brunette Avenue, even worse.

"It's a nightmare now, it could turn into a much worse situation than it is today," said Harper. "For myself, it's about a solution to the entire area in terms of the truck traffic getting in and out of the Braid industrial area.

Harper thinks a two-lane bridge would attract more heavy-duty trucks to an area already having difficulty handling handling the traffic load as it is.

"Where would it go? Right up Braid and onto Eighth Avenue, and west on Brunette. It's just adding trucks into a city that already has too many."

TransLink cancelled its plans to build the United Boulevard Extension to bypass the busy intersection and provide a better Brunette River crossing because Sapperton residents objected to the detrimental effect on the area, a position the city agreed with. As a result, TransLink also abandoned plans for a North Fraser Perimeter Road.

"How to get in and out of there, we have no solution and ever since the United Boulevard Extension died there has been no analysis," said Harper. "It's really up in the air, and because the bridge needs repairs it has reared its ugly head with our city and Coquitlam."

A restriction of 15 tonnes has been placed on the bridge, down significantly from the 48 tonnes permitted before the closure.

"It restricts it basically to passenger cars and light trucks, no commercial vehicles," said Roger Emanuels, city transportation and infrastructure coordinator. "That restriction will remain on the current bridge. It cannot be rehabilitated to take commercial loads, so we will be in discussions with Coquitlam on a longer-term fix."

Emanuels said the additional volume that would result from a two-lane bridge "would cause some significant operational issues at the Braid and Brunette intersection."

He said the signal on the one-lane bridge acts like a valve and limits the volume at Braid and Brunette.

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