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New Westminster does not want a new Pattullo Bridge

The future of what’s come to be known as the ‘Orange Bridge of Death’ was a hot topic on Thursday, at a meeting held by the Surrey Board of Trade and the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce.

The Pattullo Bridge is an important commercial link between Surrey and New West.

Business communities support Translink’s plan to build a new six-lane bridge to replace it, but they’ll have a fight on their hands as the people and the City Council of New Westminster would prefer to have no bridge crossing into their city at all.

The Pattullo Bridge was built to last 50 years, but it is now 75 years old. Construction on the new bridge could begin as early as 2016.

“To meet the project objectives that we have set for the region, the six-lane option best serves those needs,” said Sany Zein, Translink’s Director of Roads. “I want to emphasize the outside lanes will be good priority movement lanes, so we’re not here to encourage commuter traffic, we want to serve the movement of good efficiently and encourage trucks to stay on the regional road network and away from local roads.”

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It is all for port expansion and Gateway, and when the Port Mann toll bridge opens later this year, the province has said it will put up signs telling drivers they can use the Pattullo Bridge for free.

The South Fraser Perimeter Road will make it easier to go from bridge to bridge, causing more concerns about traffic into New Westminster.

“Well I’m not happy being presented with one option, being told that option is the decision and by the way we would like to consult with you,” said Jaimie McEvoy, co-chair of New Westminster transportation planning committee. “I’m asking myself, does it make sense to rebuild a bridge that was placed in 1937, because back then Kingsway was the major highway, and Columbia was the major road for the entire Lower Mainland. Does it make sense to build a new bridge in 2012 or 2014 that connects to a city designed for horse and buggy, and that’s a residential community?”

And though Surrey sees the new bridge as vital, New Westminster wants nothing to do with it. Instead of rebuilding the Pattullo, New West would like to see it decommissioned.

It will cost between 800 million and one billion dollars, and it’s still not clear who will pay for it.

“We’ve set the standard on Golden Ears, we want to match that or make it even better on the new Pattullo,” said Zein. “Next year we will be asking the question, ‘how do we want to fund this project?’. Tolls could be part of the solution,” he said, “but we will also be looking for discussions with senior levels of government to see who wants to be participating in this project once we know what the scope is.”

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Tolls are exactly what New Westinster is hoping for, to chase the traffic away from their city.

The final location is still up in the air, if all goes as planned, Translink says the new Pattullo Bridge will open in 2018.