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Review favours new Pattullo Bridge, not rehab

There are two leading options to replace the aging Pattullo Bridge – a new four- or six-lane bridge in the same location. But New Westminster still prefers a separate Surrey-Coquitlam crossing further upstream. - Black Press file photo
There are two leading options to replace the aging Pattullo Bridge – a new four- or six-lane bridge in the same location. But New Westminster still prefers a separate Surrey-Coquitlam crossing further upstream.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

A new four- or six-lane bridge to replace the aging Pattullo Bridge are the only options TransLink supports out of six that had previously been short-listed.

A review team consisting of TransLink, Surrey and New Westminster reps recommended further study of those two options going into public consultations that had been set to take place in February and March but have been postponed.

Off the table are refurbishing the existing Pattullo to operate with just three lanes or building a new five-lane bridge over the Fraser River.

Two other options are still being pushed by New Westminster but aren't supported by the full team – a new Surrey-Coquitlam bridge further upstream to bypass New West  coupled with a rehabilitated three- or four-lane Pattullo; or else just a rehabilitated four-lane Pattullo.

The $1.5-billion Surrey-Coquitlam link is unlikely but has not been ruled out yet, said Bob Paddon, TransLink executive vice-president of strategic planning and public affairs.

"It would be a very expensive option," he said. "It was on the cusp of not making the cut even several months ago."

New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright still supports the option to help take traffic off New Westminster roads.

"That rehab and connection over to Surrey from Coquitlam really has a lot of merit," Wright said. "Over on the Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam side they have their own trucking industries over there and it would give them perfect access."

Wright said any replacement for the Pattullo should be tolled, a scenario that would make the Alex Fraser the next nearest free crossing for users of both the Pattullo and the tolled Port Mann.

"That's the way you get people to change patterns and pay for it," Wright said.

Paddon said no decision has been made on tolling the replacement.

The question of how to pay for the project got more complex, he said, when the province recently indicated it would pay for one third of a Pattullo replacement and lobby Ottawa for further contributions.

Until that point TransLink had assumed tolls were the only option.

Paddon said the delay in consultations is because it became apparent TransLink needed to take more time to determine how the Pattullo would fit into a TransLink investment plan regional mayors are drawing up to go to referendum.

"As we start to narrow options you start to get to the point people want to know how we pay for it," Paddon said, adding he didn't want to waste the public's time going to meetings where there would be too many unanswered questions.

Nor is it guaranteed that tolls could fully fund a Pattullo replacement, Paddon said, noting tolls aren't covering the costs of the Golden Ears Bridge.

Surrey council wants the six-lane new bridge that New Westminster strongly opposes.

Surrey Coun. Barinder Rasode said the province should intervene and force a solution to replace the Pattullo if there are further delays or resistance to a new bridge from New West.

She said TransLink needs to consult the public more to settle on a final design option, adding there's no sense waiting to do that.

TransLink has budgeted $300 million over three years for repairs to the Pattullo.

"It doesn't make any sense when waiting is costing us so much," Rasode said.

TransLink has had to put up nets to catch chunks falling from the bridge and its engineers have warned the Pattullo could be knocked out of service by a moderate earthquake, a ship collision or river erosion.

Rasode said delay runs the risk of the bridge being closed indefinitely – resulting in traffic chaos – or even of lives being lost if the bridge actually fell in a quake.

"We just need to do it," she said. "I'm hoping the transportation minister will step in and say 'It's time.'"

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