She's an aging piece of infrastructure linking New Westminster and Surrey. After years of neglect, her bridge railings are crumbling apart and a number of detractors would like her dismantled and hauled away to the dump. Of course by now you probably realize I'm referring to the 75 year old Pattullo Bridge that's slated to be decomissioned in a few years in order to make way for a new six-lane tolled crossing.
On June 6th at 7 pm I am co-hosting an event that hopes to give this historic piece of Metro Vancouver a new lease on life. Fellow resident Keith Mackenzie and I are inviting local residents to attend a public forum to discuss what else can be done with the bridge besides tearing it apart. So far our forum has garnered some significant media interest. First off the mark was columnist Jon Ferry from The Province. He writes:
There is another option, though. And that's to go ahead and build a new six-lane bridge, but keep the old one as a people-friendly link to Surrey for cyclists and pedestrians.
Indeed, New Westminster community activist Daniel Fontaine and a friend have invited two SFU urban planning experts and a city transportation engineer to a June 6 public forum to discuss that and other ideas.
Fontaine said Thursday that everyone seems to be assuming the 75-year-old bridge will simply be taken down, like the soon-to-bereplaced Port Mann Bridge a few kilometres upstream. But he'd like to see whether the arch-shaped Pattullo, with its stunning views, can't be turned into something special.
"I've travelled quite a bit and I've seen what other cities have done with bridges," he told me. "They've put restaurants on them, they've put pedestrian bikepaths. I mean, they've done really cool things with their public spaces."
I agree. There's no reason why, if bike-mad Lower Mainland politicians, planners, professors rid themselves of their virulent anti-car ideology, they can't make life better for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists alike across our region.
But I think that, to avoid conflicts, physically separated bikeways and other pathways are key.
Along with La Perla Ballroom, 24 Hours Vancouver is a sponsor of the event. On Thursday they did an excellent 2 page spread providing the public with an in depth look at what other cities have done with their old pieces of infrastructure. Here is an excerpt:
One question has yet to be considered, however: What can we do with the existing bridge, short of demolishing it?
The new community forum, which is open to everyone, will touch on that. SFU urban design experts Gordon Price and Anthony Perl, as well as New Westminster transportation engineer Jerry Behl, will present.
Bridges have been or are being repurposed and turned into green, pedestrian-only spaces all around the world, such as Paris' Promenade Plantée, New York City's High Line Park and Philadelphia's famous Reading Viaduct. Similar projects have been suggested for Washington D.C.'s old 11th Street Bridge, and even the old Port Mann crossing upstream from the Pattullo, an “audacious idea”, writes Price in his blog, Price Tags.
“That would be spectacular,” Price added about the Port Mann park concept, quietly floated by Gaetan Royer, a manager at Metro Vancouver. “I love the idea. It’s just so audacious and jaw-dropping to think of what the possibilities might be.”
In today's Royal City Record, reporter Theresa McManus wrote an excellent story about the upcoming forum. She states:
Fontaine believes there are a lot of potential uses for the bridge if it's repurposed or adapted, but it would require harnessing the creativity of the private sector. He said people should think out of the box about the bridge's potential and view it as prime real estate in Greater Vancouver.
"It is something that could really generate a lot of cool ideas," he said. "It doesn't necessary require a lot of public dollars."
Before the public could offer input about the fate of the Port Mann Bridge, Fontaine said a decision was made to tear it down when the new crossing was complete. He doesn't want to see a similar decision made around the Pattullo Bridge without giving the public a chance to provide input.
"Let's do it early on," Fontaine said. "It's a good piece of infrastructure that could potentially be saved."
I also want to give a big shout out to the Bill Good Show for inviting both Gord Price and myself to the studio on Thursday to talk about the forum. There were some great callers and the segment was a lot of fun.
If you want to attend the event, or know someone who might be interested, here are the details:
Date: Wednesday, June 6
Time: 7-9 pm
Location: La Perla Ballroom – River Market at Westminster Quay (near New Westminster SkyTrain station). There is plenty of parking onsite.
Gord Price, Director, The City Program, SFU
Anthony Perl, Simon Fraser University
Jerry Behl, Transportation Engineer, City of New Westminster
TransLink (they were invited, but declined our invitation)
We also plan to use PlaceSpeak to further engage the community on this topic after Wednesday…stay tuned for more information on this new development. Hope you can make it out to the event.
– Post by Daniel