The aged Pattullo Bridge recorded a 25-per-cent increase in heavy-truck traffic in January – a month after tolls came into effect on the Port Mann Bridge – prompting Metro Vancouver mayors to call on TransLink for a regional goods movement strategy.
It’s not known how many of those trucks are specifically coming from the Port Mann. But Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said the Pattullo, which links her city and New Westminster, is experiencing added pressures from the toll bridge, the border, the South Fraser Perimeter Road and expanded Deltaport.
A proposed new Massey Tunnel is also expected to have an impact, she said.
“We’re seeing a 25-per-cent diversion of drivers … to the Pattullo, which the infrastructure cannot accommodate,” Watts said.
“It’s been a concern from square one. We knew there would be some diversion.”
Watts, chairwoman of Metro’s new transportation committee, raised her concerns Wednesday after hearing TransLink’s proposed transportation strategy to 2045.
Paul Lee, of Surrey’s transportation department, said part of the problem is that truckers, unlike drivers of small cars and trucks, aren’t eligible for a 50-per-cent discount on tolls across the new bridge during the day, meaning they have to pay the full fare of $9 per crossing.
The opening of the northern section of the South Fraser Perimeter Road in December compounded the problem, as it allowed trucks to more easily bypass the Port Mann for the Pattullo.
Truck drivers can get a 50-per-cent discount on the Port Mann at night, between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., but Watts suggests there should be a monthly pass for truckers to keep them off the 75-year-old Pattullo, which is narrow and slated for replacement.
“It’s problematic because the (Pattullo) bridge can’t handle it,” she said.
Trace Acres, vice-president of the B.C. Truckers’ Association, said the 25-per-cent increase was a jump from January 2012 to January 2013. But he maintains the increase only shows a general rise in traffic and there’s no indication where the trucks were coming from.
Surrey has been monitoring traffic heading onto the Pattullo on the Surrey side since the Port Mann tolls went into place.
In the first week after the tolls came into effect in December, Surrey recorded a 28.4 per cent increase in trucks on the Pattullo, which was equal to about 640 trucks based on peak volume of 5,358 vehicles during the evening rush hour.
Max Logan, spokesman for Transportation Investment Corp., which is responsible for maintaining the bridge, said he’s surprised to hear that heavy-truck traffic has increased on the Pattullo, noting traffic on the Port Mann has remained consistent with the pre-tolled numbers.
He said 2.8 million vehicles crossed the bridge in January 2013, almost identical to the 2.9 million that crossed a year earlier in the same month. Between 10,000 and 15,000 trucks use the bridge daily, he said.
“Those numbers are not consistent with what we’re seeing on the Port Mann Bridge,” Logan said.
He said TI Corp. expects to see some fluctuation in truck volumes as drivers test the different routes, but said he believes most drivers will keep using the Port Mann because they can save time in the long run.
“We need to see those numbers (from Surrey) and get a better understanding,” Logan said. “We’re surprised there is this gap between their figures and ours.”
Jim Lowrie, director of engineering with New Westminster, said his city is monitoring the traffic levels and is still waiting for specific numbers from TransLink on the volume of traffic using the crossing.
However, he said, anecdotally the city has seen and heard from residents that there has been an increase in traffic across the Pattullo, “most notably an increase in truck traffic.”
TransLink, which is responsible for the Pattullo Bridge, is not prepared to release the numbers at this time, spokesman Derek Zabel said.
“It’s too early to determine the changes and how that will impact the Pattullo,” Zabel said. “We do know from past experience that it will take months for drivers to establish new driving routes.”
TransLink is expected to come out with a draft plan on goods movement for the region as part of its long-range strategy.