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A perfect storm brewing on city streets?

TransLink is expected to launch the next round of consultation on the Pattullo Bridge project soon. - NewsLeader file photo
TransLink is expected to launch the next round of consultation on the Pattullo Bridge project soon.
— image credit: NewsLeader file photo

Jonathan Coté isn’t a climatologist or Farmers Almanac contributor but the city councillor is predicting a perfect storm will hit the streets of New Westminster in the new year.

He’s basing his prognostication on some stats and two expected occurrences.

Statistics obtained by CTV News show traffic volume on the new, wide and tolled Port Mann Bridge for the past six months (June to November) were down compared to the same period in 2011, including a 13 per cent drop in June and 10 per cent fewer vehicles in the last three months (September to November).

This coincides, said Coté, with stats from the city and TransLink showing usage of the untolled Pattullo Bridge has gone up 16 per cent, after showing a 15 per cent decline between 1994 and 2011.

“I’m not quite sure what the price sensitivity on the traffic is, but I can only think the traffic is going to get worse,” said Coté.

Coté, who is co-chair of the city’s master transportation plan task force, predicts Pattullo traffic volume will go up when the introductory toll on the Port Mann Bridge ends in January and car crossings will cost $3 each. He also expects it’ll also rise with the imminent completion of the South Fraser Perimeter Road because truckers coming from Delta will use the Pattullo to avoid the toll.

“We’ve got a perfect storm brewing here in New Westminster,” said Coté. “We’ve got people avoiding the Port Mann because of the toll and then having the South Fraser Perimeter Road being close to being completed and increasing traffic on the Pattullo Bridge and the Queensborough Bridge.

“Our road network [in New Westminster] simply can’t handle it,” Coté added.

He lamented the fact the province is spending billions of dollars on highways but because of its policies the traffic is being diverted and clogging up an overburdened traffic system.

“The Port Mann is the widest bridge in North America yet this traffic is down compared to the old bridge,” said Coté. “Tolling the odd bridge here and there is just causing traffic in areas it was never intended to be.”

Coté said building an expanded Pattullo Bridge appeals to many south of the Fraser River, but in many respects it’s self-defeating. “If you’re just hitting gridlock on the other side of the bridge, what are you accomplishing?”

Coté said he doesn’t blame commuters for wanting to avoid the Port Mann toll.

He says if the current system is retained the Port Mann will never reach full capacity, and the same thing will happen if the same situation is used to build a new George Massey Tunnel connection.

“Is this the best use of our transportation resources?” said Coté.

“I’m hoping this information is starting to catch their eyes, particularly the province.”

The new stats are only fortifying Coté’s belief it’s time to look at regional tolling with smaller tolls on all crossings.

He said implementing such a system would more equitably distribute transportation infrastructure costs and lead to a better transportation system region-wide.

 

• A survey released by Insights West last week said in 2014, 31 per cent of those surveyed said they will actively seek new routes to avoid the higher toll on the Port Mann, while an additional 23 per cent say they’ll drive over the bridge less often.

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