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Wright wants Pattullo summit with Premier, Minister

Trucks line up for the Pattullo Bridge at about 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday. - Trevor Morgan/Contributed
Trucks line up for the Pattullo Bridge at about 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
— image credit: Trevor Morgan/Contributed

New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright wants to talk traffic with Premier Christy Clark and Transportation Minister Todd Stone and at least one of them may be willing to listen.

Wright wants them to come to the Royal City and see firsthand the gridlock tolls on the Port Mann Bridge and the opening of the South Fraser Perimeter Road have imposed upon the city's streets and the Pattullo Bridge.

Council sent a letter to Clark and Stone requesting a visit and a sit-down discussion with them on the issues. On Thursday, a ministry spokesman said Stone's office "will work with the Mayor's office to facilitate a conversation in the coming weeks."

"I'm surprised," said Wright about the media attention New Westminster's request has garnered. "We asked ourselves, 'how do we get some more people to react to this.' There's got to be a solution."

Wright and council believe the higher tolls implemented Jan. 1 on the Port Mann Bridge have diverted commuters to the Pattullo and onto the streets of New Westminster. In addition, the completion of the South Fraser Perimeter Road with its easy access to the Pattullo and roundabout route to the Port Mann has also meant more vehicles, particularly heavy trucks are using the Pattullo.

For the past two years, TransLink has been trying to determine whether to refurbish, replace or relocate the Pattullo. Surrey wants a six-lane replacement while New West would like the possibility of a four-lane bridge connecting North Surrey to Coquitlam combined with a refurbishment of the Pattullo explored.

"What's happened now when we go back to our discussions, we want a full explanation of the funding mechanism if the bridge that goes from Coq to Surrey is a better answer than a six lane except for costs then it has to be explored," said Wright. "We seem to be getting blamed for [putting up roadblocks to replacing the Pattullo]. We're trying to get the best result and it's not for the short term but for long, long term."

He noted use of the Pattullo had declined steadily since 1994 to about 60,000 per day in 2012. By December 2013, however, TransLink's numbers show usage had climbed to about 75,000 a day on weekdays. With the Port Mann tolls doubling Jan. 1, Wright wants to see the post new year numbers, which he says should have already been available from TransLink. The city, said Wright, was told by TransLink the counter was broken and the stats will be available in February. Wright expects the numbers will verify New Westminster's visual and anecdotal evidence.

"I'm anxious to see the numbers. I'm just hoping that the numbers are real," said Wright. "If I have to put our own people on [counting vehicles], I will."

Wright wants Clark and Stone to see the traffic jams for themselves and then sit down for a candid talk. He understands they have a much bigger picture to look at but "if we could isolate this then we could make it clear to them what's going on."

New Westminster's critics have said a Surrey-Coquitlam connection would be too expensive. But Wright believes it's more important to build the right solution for the next 100 years and not for the short term.

"If you build a bigger Pattullo where is the traffic going to go? The traffic wants to go east and all that is solved, including the (problems with the one-lane Brunette) Bailey bridge," said Wright. "To me [an alternate connection has] got some validation."

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