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Bridge brouhaha brewing as cities hit road block over new Pattullo

Surrey and New Westminster are at odds over what to do with the aging Pattullo Bridge. - Leader file image
Surrey and New Westminster are at odds over what to do with the aging Pattullo Bridge.
— image credit: Leader file image

A proposed expansion of the Pattullo Bridge has hit an axle-bending speed bump as New Westminster has postponed the second phase of public consultation on the project.

The 77-year-old Pattullo Bridge is in need of upgrades, for which TransLink has set aside $300 million.

However, officials with the transportation authority, which has responsibility for the Pattullo, are reluctant to spend heavily on repairs if a new bridge is in the offing.

Surrey's transportation plan calls for a widening of the bridge to six lanes, which several councillors in the city say the public broadly supports. That would cost an estimated $1.6 billion.

Another option is a four-lane bridge, which would cost about $800 million.

However, New Westminster wants neither, committee members have said, adding the municipality has put off the second phase of TrasnLink's public consultation on bridge expansion.

New West opposes the expansion – preferring instead to keep upgrading the aging span – because it will funnel greater volumes of traffic into its community.

"It's unfortunate," said committee member Coun. Barinder Rasode. "We've been in engaged in a process for many years on community consultation and exploring options. And our planning has always revolved around a six-lane Pattullo expansion."

With both sides dug in, TransLink may have to go to the province to settle the matter.

"Right now, because it's a TransLink bridge, it's entrusted on TransLink to resolve the issues on both sides," said Surrey's General Manager of Engineering Vincent Lalonde.

Rasode said that by "nature of its geography" New Westminster is a transportation corridor and should accept a wider bridge.

Metro Vancouver, she said, has also supported a bridge expansion.

Surrey officials say that the best use of the dollars is to expand it, rather than continue to fix the span.

The $300 million for upgrades would have to be spent again in another 20 years or so.

A new span would last between 75 and 100 years, city staff say.

Calls to New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright were not returned by The Leader's press deadline.

City of Surrey staff are now trying to negotiate with New Westminster and TransLink to see if the discussion can move forward.

TransLink has winnowed 25 Pattullo Bridge replacement configurations down to six.

It aims to shortlist two or three preferred options this winter ahead of a final choice – if the cities of Surrey and New Westminster can unite behind one.

It's assumed the new $1-billion-plus crossing would be paid for through tolls but no decision has been made on financing.

TransLink had been hoping a decision on the planned replacement would be made next year.

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