If a new Pattullo Bridge isn’t built within five years then the Lower Mainland could lose a Fraser River crossing.
That’s according to Surrey’s mayor Linda Hepner, who says that the current repairs aren’t a longterm solution.
“We did invest $100 million in upgrades to that bridge to ensure that it was safe for the next several years,” Hepner said. “But if there is no replacement bridge by 2022…”
While Hepner is happy that the federal funding portion of the Pattullo replacement is accounted for, she’s concerned that the current provincial situation will complicate matters.
“We’ve had commitments from all parties from whoever forms government on the provincial side,” she said. “But election promises have put us in a state of flux because of the funding model for the bridge.”
Currently, the Mayors Council plans for the new Pattullo to be a toll bridge. That could get complicated; the BC Liberals promised a $500 annual cap on bridge tolls and the NPD, who stole several Surrey ridings away from the incumbents, promised to nix them altogether.
Hepner isn’t concerned that a short-lived provincial government, whether Liberal or NDP-Green, could make any funding promises made this year slightly shaky in the the longterm.
“I think that once a government makes a commitment relative a major capital protect that would be honoured,” she said.
The NDP-Green Party agreement makes few promises, vowing only to “improve transit and transportation infrastructure in cooperation with the Mayors’ Council and the federal government to reduce emissions, create jobs and get people home faster” as well as “find a more fair and equitable way of funding transit for the long term.”
“In the absence of tolls – or with a ceiling for tolls – that puts how that bridge will be paid for in question,” Hepner said, “it’s one of the most urgent things on our agenda.”
Hepner said that talks cannot wait until the new independent pricing commission to look at mobility pricing, announced in early June, produces a report. The $2.31 million body isn’t expected to produce a report until March 2018.
“Whatever the formula works out to be in term of fairness and equity across region would form very small portion of actual costs [of the Pattullo replacement],” said Hepner, citing toll commitments to third parties, like in the case of TransLink’s Golden Ears Bridge and the Port Mann, as topics that would have to be worked out before a new tolling structirecould be implemented.
Speaking in January, then-transportation minister Todd Stone said that if a new tolled Pattulo left the Alex Fraser as the only toll-free cross of the Fraser, the province’s tolling policy would have to be reworked.
Hepner remains adamant that any new tolling system “cannot punish south of the Fraser” communities.
There are no current cost estimates available for a new Pattullo, which according to a TransLink timeline is slated to begin construction in spring 2019 and open by 2023.
“It will be an expensive bridge and connecting it to the South Fraser Perimeter Road is also critical in my opionion,” Hepner said.