New West NewsLeader Editor Chris Bryan has been a leading voice in the opposition to TransLink’s plan for to replace the Pattullo Bridge. In a recent editorial, he advocated retaining the existing bridges, expanding its lanes to modern safety standards, improving pedestrian and bike access, and giving the crossing a nice paint job. At a cost of $200 million, he suggested the remaining $800 million go towards transit in Surrey. While that all sounds wonderful, there are a few realities that Bryan refuses to acknowledge in his scenario.
First off, there is no pot of money waiting to be used on a $1 billion Pattullo replacement. If a new bridge was built, it is highly likely that it would be paid for by tolls, just as the Golden Ears and Port Mann have done. The talk about Victoria or Ottawa throwing in hundreds of millions to remove the need for tolls is laughable and merely sideshow politics to diffuse the growing toll backlash among commuters.
Therefore, there is not $800 million available to just build transit in Surrey. There’s not even $30 million available to run Kevin Falcon’s promised rapid bus across the new Port Mann. If the money isn’t coming from tolls on a new bridge, then explain where it will arrive from, because until then, the whole debate is moot.
Secondly, does Surrey understand New West’s issues with traffic? Absolutely, as do all cities. However, talk of dismantling the bridge does sound assanine to commuters – and not just those of us South of the Fraser. We live in a region, and lifestyles do not end at municipal borders. So let’s take that talk off the table and start discussing realistic options.
TransLink’s proposal is for a six-lane bridge, two lanes of which would be dedicated to goods movement. Therefore, in all actuality, the new Pattullo would look very much like the old one: four lanes for everyday vehicles. The big difference is that this bridge would actually be built to modern safety standards, which is the current crossing’s biggest issue and the main reason we’re talking about its replacement.
But let’s say the six-lane option is off the table. Vancouver refused to accept an expanded Lions Gate and everything’s turned out all right there. If we keep the existing bridge, as you propose, the only way we can make it safe is by reducing lane width and making the bridge a three-lane counterflow. Let’s be frank; there is no other way to improve the safety of the Pattullo without reducing its capacity. Maybe, in a post-Port Mann II world, with all the new lanes on Hwy 1, it won’t be a big problem. We don’t know yet.
If New West has decided that a modern version of the existing bridge is unacceptable, we will have to move to plan B. It’s fine to do so, but let’s be clear about what we’re actually talking it now: a Pattullo Bridge with reduced capacity from four lanes to three-lanes counterflow, estimated to cost $200 million. And we don’t even have the money to pay for it.