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Two one-lane bridges could link New Westminster and Coquitlam

The province is willing to provide a new Bailey bridge to New Westminster for free, but there's a catch.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone sent a letter Thursday to Mayor Wayne Wright offering to provide a temporary Bailey bridge to replace the one-lane crossing of the Brunette River that was shut down in early March due to structural issues.

But the offer is conditional. New West must agree to allow a second temporary single-lane bridge to be installed later this year. Its installation would be paid for by Coquitlam.

Stone said in an interview with the NewsLeader that if New Westminster doesn't accept what he termed a "generous offer" the city will have to find another temporary bridge and the money to pay for it.

"I'm quite surprised. I read it for the first time just now," said Wright early Thursday afternoon. "It's quite amazing. We had a bridge coming from them with nothing attached, but then somebody says [there is a condition to the offer.] Now we have to look for another bridge."

The current one-lane bridge has been shut down since early March because the latest cracks in the structure can't be repaired. The bridge was also shut down last year after two splits in its trusses were found. Although it was repaired within two weeks heavy truck traffic was banned.

Coquitlam has long called for a two-lane replacement for the crossing that connects the two cities over the Brunette River. But New West has been steadfast in maintaining a two-lane structure would only increase the stifling congestion it already experiences at the Braid Street and Brunette Avenue intersection.

Both cities have agreed to provincial binding arbitration.

"My job first and foremost is to ensure safe movement of goods and people," Stone said.

He said the connection between Coquitlam's United Boulevard and the Braid Industrial Park in New Westminster sees 9,000 to 10,000 vehicles daily. Having only a one-lane crossing or closing it has made it difficult for those in emergency situations to get to Royal Columbian Hospital, said Stone.

"I keep hearing of close calls of people barely making it to Royal Columbian just in time," said Stone.

Wright called the emergency argument a red herring because ambulances have always used the Brunette overpass on Highway 1 to get to RCH. Stone, however, said paramedics have told him they use the shortest route to get there.

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