Future of Metro Vancouver's Pattullo Bridge debated
Public meetings looking into a replacement for Metro Vancouver's aging Pattullo Bridge began this week, stirring up controversy over tolls and what a new bridge should look like.
The Pattullo Bridge, known for its narrow lanes and deadly crashes, opened in 1937 and connects Surrey and New Westminster over the Fraser River with four lanes. Already 25 years past its design life, TransLink wants to open a new bridge in 2018.
But while Surrey's mayor is advocating for a new six-lane bridge, New Westminster councillor Bill Harper says this would worsen traffic conditions for the Lower Mainland's already most congested city.
"There's not anything that's going to be a benefit to New Westminster by building a new bridge at this particular moment that's six lanes," he told CTV News.
Harper says nothing has been planned to deal with the potential increase of vehicles.
"Potentially doubling the traffic into the city without any plans to mitigate that traffic; it's just going to be dumped into the city. There's no extra routes to get it through the city," he added.
About half a million vehicles travel through New Westminster every day, which raises health concerns for people who actually live in the city.
"We recently had an air quality test that was done by Metro Vancouver where, under our current parkade downtown on Front Street, the toxicity levels are through the roof and are actually dangerous for citizens' health," Harper said.
"We're not going to sit back and just watch the rest of the region dump thousands and thousands of more cars on our streets everyday," he added.
Councillor Jonathan Cote fears traffic numbers will rise in New Westminster when tolling begins on the new Port Mann Bridge.
"I think that the minute that the new Port Mann is tolled, New Westminster is going to have increased traffic because the Pattullo Bridge will be the free alternative," Cote told CTV News.
He thinks TransLink should consider tolls on the Pattullo Bridge before its replacement is built in order to curb traffic.
"It's an idea that should be explored; looking at time-of-day road pricing on the existing Pattullo," Cote said.
The New Westminster council is so concerned about a new Pattullo Bridge, it's launching its own public consultation process.It's also staying out of TransLink's process until the city has created its own master transportation plan.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Michele Brunoro