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Pattullo, Massey bridge plans draw fire from Metro Vancouver mayors

The estimated cost of work to rehabilitate the Pattullo Bridge has doubled to $300 million even though TransLink is in the midst of planning to build a replacement. - Black Press file photo
The estimated cost of work to rehabilitate the Pattullo Bridge has doubled to $300 million even though TransLink is in the midst of planning to build a replacement.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

Some Metro Vancouver mayors want TransLink to ban heavy trucks from the aging Pattullo Bridge to extend its life.

They say the $300 million TransLink estimates is needed to repair the bridge in the next three years – in addition to a potential $1-billion-plus for a replacement later on – is unaffordable, especially as more trucks are using the span after the province tolled the nearby Port Mann Bridge.

"We need to prohibit truck traffic on that bridge so we extend the life as long as possible," Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told Metro Vancouver's transportation committee Wednesday.

"If not, then tear the bridge down and tell the provincial government to build another one if you want to."

Corrigan said the Pattullo would last longer if it handled regular vehicles only.

"The trucks are tearing that bridge apart," added New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright, who has called for reduced truck tolls on the Port Mann as a partial solution.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, the committee chair, said there's no doubt some trucks have diverted from the Port Mann to the Pattullo – adding to the damage there – because the province designated it the free untolled alternative.

But she was cautious on supporting a ban, adding traffic engineers would have to closely study the idea.

"If you're going to ban truck traffic on the Pattullo, then those trucks are going to go somewhere," she said.

TransLink strategic planning vice-president Bob Paddon said any decision to remove the Pattullo as a designated truck route or otherwise restrict its use for goods movement could not be done lightly and would require consultation.

"If the deck continues to deteriorate over time we may have to look at lane closures or potentially closing the bridge itself in dealing with future potential safety issues," Paddon said.

Some mayors voiced support for a replacement that would link Surrey to Coquitlam at Brunette, bypassing New Westminster.

But Paddon called the bridge a vital connection that directly links the Surrey and New Westminster city centres, as called for in Metro's regional growth strategy.

It was also the first time the committee has met since Premier Christy Clark announced the Massey Tunnel will be replaced with a large new bridge, costing up to $3 billion.

Several mayors said the province can't simply announce huge infrastructure projects without making sure they mesh with TransLink's bridges and the regional plan.

"We cannot continue to do one-offs, whether it's the Port Mann Bridge or a Massey bridge," said North Vancouver City Mayor Darrell Mussatto, adding the region will be on a "road to nowhere" until there's an integrated strategy that deals with all major corridors that are arbitrarily divided between TransLink and provincial control.

"We can't plan land use while transportation planning is out of our hands and the provincial government chooses to make a political football of where they can make an announcement for each election on a new bridge," Corrigan said.

He also said it's unsustainable to build more lanes of traffic leading to the Vancouver urban core, adding that will only leave cities like Burnaby and Richmond choked in traffic congestion.

Any increase in lanes with a replaced Pattullo will add to the problem, Corrigan predicted.

"We're rapidly turning into L.A. junior."

Corrigan argued Surrey's downtown – designated the region's second Metro core – should become the main city centre for people South of the Fraser, not downtown Vancouver, and should increasingly host major entertainment and other regional destination amenities.

A staff report raised concerns that a large new Highway 99 bridge could run at cross-purposes to the regional growth strategy.

The committee voted to ask B.C.'s transportation minister to demonstrate how the Massey project takes regional goals into consideration.

Watts said a more fulsome assessment might conclude a new Massey bridge should be six lanes with rapid transit, rather than a 10-lane bridge that more than doubles the existing lanes.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said the proposed new bridge isn't so much about traffic as it is a port-inspired project that aims to eliminate the tunnel to increase shipping.

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