Pattullo discussed at Surrey-New Westminster summit

Surrey city council may have been enlightened on the view from the other side of the river by a summit on the Pattullo Bridge with their New Westminster counterparts, but that doesn't mean they're backing off a six-lane replacement of the 75-year-old structure.

Last Friday, Mayor Wayne Wright and Couns. Jonathan Coté, Jaimie McEvoy and Chuck Puchmayr and some city staff headed to Surrey city hall to meet with Mayor Dianne Watts, a majority of its council and its staff.

"It was a very pleasant meeting. There were a lot of things about a six-lane Pattullo Bridge they didn't grasp. They understand our situation a little bit more," said Puchmayr. "It was really refreshing to have them look at our impact. They were actually thinking a six-lane bridge would help New Westminster and that in itself is very productive."

Earlier in the year, TransLink held open houses on plans to build a six-lane replacement that would include two lanes for truck traffic. New Westminster objected, arguing that a bigger bridge would cause more stress on its already congested routes of McBride Boulevard, Royal Avenue and Columbia Street with no room to expand any of them.

"We've done a lot of work in the last six months to slow this whole thing down and look at it on a more regional basis," said Puchmayr. "We've met with Burnaby, and we've met with Surrey and we're going to meet with Vancouver. [Surrey is] certainly willing to go back to TransLink and ask them about different options … They understand now that it would require some expropriation to put in extra capacity."

Surrey Coun. Marvin Hunt said he hadn't really considered six lanes being a problem for New Westminster because McBride has four lanes and Royal and Columbia have a lane each for getting on and off the bridge.

"By my mathematics that counts six. That's why I never considered it a problem … We were for all intents and purposes fairly ignorant of their concerns," said Hunt, who couldn't recall the two councils getting together in his 22 years as a councillor. "The reality is when neighbours get together and talk, you start to see the other guy's perspective and you appreciate it. By the same token I want to find solutions … That doesn't mean we have changed our position on a six-lane bridge, because a six-lane bridge makes sense to us. The challenge is how do you change things on the New Westminster side."

Puchmayr said New Westminster isn't without sympathy for Surrey.

"We totally hear them when it comes to their concerns about the expansion of SkyTrain and transit. We totally support lobbying on their behalf to make sure they're better served by transit. That would help New Westminster as well," said Puchmayr.

He admitted that suggested alternatives such as fixing the current structure, turning it into a three-lane bridge, or a new four-lane drew a few snickers from the Surrey side of the table.

"We believe in inter-city commerce, we just don't believe we can add truck capacity," said Puchmayr. "We do need to move goods, and we do need to move people, but people have to realize we can't have more capacity in New Westminster without massive expropriation. There just isn't the real estate to do it."

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