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Pattullo repair decision by TransLink questioned by councillors
TransLink’s decision to set aside $299 million for repairing the Pattullo Bridge speaks to the need to make a long-term decision on the aging structure, says a New Westminster councillor.
Last week, TransLink earmarked the money to rehabilitate the 76-year-old bridge over the next three years even though it could be torn down soon after the work is done. TransLink came to the conclusion the work needed to be done after doing assessments during three weekend closures for repairs during the summer.
“The costs have gone up a lot higher than originally anticipated and it caught a lot of people off guard,” said Coun. Jonathan Coté, co-chair of the city’s master transportation plan task force. “It seems to be a waste to put that many millions of dollars into a bridge that may be torn down within 10 years.”
Coté said it is critical the province, TransLink, and the affected cities get together in the next three or four months and make decisions.
“But until decisions are made, it would seem to be a waste (to spend $299 million),” said Coté, “Transportation is starved for cash. We can’t afford to be putting money toward something that is not a long-term solution.”
Coun. Chuck Puchmayr was reluctant to speculate whether TransLink’s decision was a way to get the province to spring for building a crossing from Surrey to Coquitlam while rehabilitating the Pattullo to be a two or three-lane bridge with improved pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. That option was recently pegged at costing around $1.4 billion by a committee composed of TransLink and the cities of New Westminster and Surrey.
“I never want to be one to guess the logic of TransLink because it’s not a democratically elected board,” said Puchmayr. “There’s been a huge potential of it being ambushed by developers, primarily in the south Fraser region. If the province was really truly talking about a goods movement corridor they would never have designed the infrastructure the way they did.”
Officials at the regional transportation authority insist they will try not to spend the money unnecessarily and are hopeful the bulk of the outlay can be averted if a decision on replacing the Pattullo with a new bridge can be made soon enough.
The projected amount to be spent repairing the bridge has doubled from a previous estimate of $150 million to $299 million after work on the span this summer gave TransLink a better idea of what is needed.
Executive vice-president of policy and strategic planning Bob Paddon said the rehab work could begin as soon as 2015 and he hopes a decision on the Pattullo’s replacement will be made in 2014.