Pattullo Bridge closure would be welcomed in New Westminster

In January 2009 a fire beneath the rusty Pattullo Bridge forced it to temporarily shut down. Soon there were predictions that the closure would trigger traffic gridlock and chaos on the streets. As it turned out, those grim warnings were unfounded.

What the closure did do was give the citizens of New Westminster a brief glimpse of what life would be like without a Fraser River crossing. As a local resident myself, I can describe those eight days as nothing short of glorious.

That’s because the estimated 450,000 vehicles travelling through the Royal City on a daily basis was dramatically reduced. Residential side streets regularly used by commuters to shorten their journeys were suddenly almost car free.

Fast forward to 2012 and TransLink is in the middle of consulting local residents and businesses regarding the future of the Pattullo Bridge. At 75 years old, this piece of infrastructure clearly requires some serious attention.

24 Hours Vancouver

But what should we do next? Transit officials want you to believe the only option available is to build a much larger six-lane bridge. And, given the state of our public finances, you can anticipate a hefty toll will be used to finance it.

According to TransLink, a new tolled Pattullo Bridge will support the increase of daily commuter traffic from 60,300 trips in 2012 to 94,000 by 2040. Meanwhile, the total number of big rigs making the crossing will jump from 3,500 to 7,500 during this same period.

After I recently attended a so-called public consultation on this project, I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Rather than putting forward all of the options on the table, TransLink chose to limit the scope of discussion. In fact, they even published online a resource document titled “options considered but not pursued.”

What isn’t being pursued is the option of moving the bridge out of New Westminster altogether. Nor is there any discussion of converting it to a more community-oriented two-lane road serving local needs. As for the radical idea of replacing the current four-lane Pattullo with another four-lane span – well, you can forget it.

With a new tolled ten-lane Port Mann bridge about to open up later this year, one thing is for sure. The issue of tolls, traffic and transportation will heat up even more in the months to come. As for whether you’ll see street hockey being played on McBride Boulevard anytime soon, I wouldn’t count on it.

– post by Daniel. Originally published in 24 Hours Vancouver.

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  • Higgins

    Daniel, Mike off topic sorry.
    How can one access older stories other than the ones displayed on the front page, going back a week or two? Thanks and … appreciated.

    • Higgins, thanks for the note. When I get a spare moment I’ll get a proper archive page working on the site. Btw, the search field works pretty well for keyword lookups.

      Also, if you click “Opinion” above you’ll get the archive of all the commentary which you can click through ten articles at a time.

  • Richard

    Well said, Daniel.

    I am really puzzled as to why they are considering a six lane bridge. After their experience with the Golden Ears traffic being way under what they predicted, you would think they would be conservative in their projections.

    With younger people driving less, the cost of driving getting higher and density reducing the need to drive as far, I would doubt that they need a six lane bridge. All it would end up doing is taking funding away from badly needed transit improvements.

    I also wonder if their projections are in line with their 2040 goal of 50% of trips by transit, cycling and walking. I expect not.

  • bobh

    traffic is a fact of life. We need to accept it and not become a NIMBY. I live on a street in Surrey that has become much busier in the last ten years. With the growth of the South of the Fraser communities continuing, the transportation network needs to be upgraded. That includes the Patullo Bridge. Daniel, you might not like the traffic, but it was there before you moved to your present home I suspect. No you want to send the cars and trucks to someone else’s neighborhood? That is not logical. Or fair.

  • Ned

    Hey, I second Higgins. How can we get older posts. Recent ones that do not appear on the page from 2012?

  • Willt

    I agree completely. One detail to note however was the traffic nightmare that existed at the junction of the Queensbo bridge and the east west connector when the pattullo was closed .

  • Mark

    Are you kidding? No traffic nighmare.
    I work at the south end of the Patullo and to get from work home to Lougheed Mall took two hours each night for the week of the closure.
    New West seems to want to be insular and xenophobic in spite of it’s neighbours such as refusing to upgrade the Braid Street Bailey bridge from United Blvd in Coquitlam

  • Dear Daniel,

    Clean & green electric vehicles have arrived, they’re built to last but they do not drive on water. Glad that I could clear up any notion of car travel reduction, now we need a bridge replacement solution.

    While I don’t personally care for tolls, this location represents a common sense application of the ‘how to pay for it’ method because unlike the GEB there are already 10’s of thousands of drivers going over the existing bridge. My feeling is that most of them will continue to drive it even after it’s tolled. So paying for it should not be a stumbling block.

    Many longtime residents of New Westminster will also remember a time when the construction of the skytrain Expo Line caused all kinds of kerfuffle. And my goodness, that was for a sustainable-minded future and promoting transit habits back then! So, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that a new bridge crossing has raised the hair on a few arms.

    Unfortunately the city has some unique geophysical disadvantages like being built on a steep hillside.

    It has some geographical constraints being wedged between the river, Burnaby and the No. 1 Highway. Even worse is being located between the Cities of Coquitlam, Port Moody and the Vancouver airport!

    And it has some geopolitical residue for those who still like to think that it’s the capital of BC. Speaking of the capital, do you think for a moment that Victoria would snuff the idea of replacing an existing heavily used bridge? of course not. Lookup the Johnson St. bridge replacment project.

    Now for the fun stuff;

    I’d like to see two new bridges; a 4-lane replacement for the existing bridge and a new 4-lane bridge from KGB/Scott Road to King Edward St in Coquitlam (or thereabouts). Both bridges must have multi-use pathways and both bridges should be tied into the future planning of the North Fraser Perimeter Road.

    And my ultimate idea is akin to the Millau Viaduct in France, the tallest bridge in the world. Linking the top of the Surrey city plateau to the top of New Westminster. Think about a solution that would link the intersection of KGB & 132 St. Diversion to the intersection of McBride & 6th Ave. Put a BC Stamp on it by designing a split in the structure to link up the top of the 104 Ave hill and the gateway to the new Surrey city hall.

    What I’m talking about is a monumental symbolic structure that transcends the argument paradigm. Think about the pedestrian views of the Pacific Ocean & the coastal islands. Think about no traffic lights and drastically reduced commute times. Think about anything but the NIMBY attitude that someone mentioned in an earlier post. Think about something you would be proud of and feel good about having in your backyard. I want something awesome, not just getting the job done.