Planning for a grand goodbye bash for the Pattullo Bridge is set to begin in New Westminster, B.C., with the provincial government having now indicated its interest in the concept to the city’s mayor and council.
The existing Pattullo Bridge opened in 1937, connecting New Westminster to Surrey, and is slated for decommissioning. Construction on its replacement is already underway, and scheduled for completion in mid-2024.
But the city doesn’t want to let the original structure go without a good celebration — one that could include music, food trucks, fireworks, a drone show and more.
“Hopefully it’ll be a multi-day event,” said Coun. Daniel Fontaine, who first proposed the idea in May. “So many people have an interesting connection to (the bridge), and it’s the good, the bad and the ugly.”
In May, New Westminster’s mayor and council passed a motion to send a letter to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and TransLink to gauge their interest in the celebration, as well as a separate memorial or day of remembrance held to honour those who have lost their lives on the Pattullo Bridge.
Both events would shut down the current bridge.
The city had hoped the province and TransLink would host the event with its input, in order to minimize the strain on municipal staff and resources. Fontaine said he hopes a few corporate sponsors will join in as well.
In a Wednesday statement, TransLink said it would “support and work with the provincial government and the municipalities of New Westminster and Surrey on their plans for a potential celebration on the Pattullo Bridge.”
A committee is now set to form in New Westminster with community input.
“I would love to see a web portal, a place where the public can bring up ideas and put them forth, then the committee can hopefully soon weigh in on some of those ideas and determine what’s feasibly within the next year,” Fontaine added.
“We’re celebrating this bridge, what it has done for this community, how it has contributed to our economic activity, how it’s become iconic when you think of New Westminster and the backdrop of this city.”
Coun. Paul Minhas, who has experience organizing large events in New Westminster, including food truck and Pride festivals, said he’s eyeballing a one-week celebration for the Pattullo Bridge.
“The bigger we make the festival, the more people will be involved,” he said. “I would love to have Surrey as a part of it.”
Barry Best’s grandfather, a journeyman carpenter, helped construct the original Pattullo Bridge and told him stories about the process.
“I think the scary part was down in the hole, when they’re inside the cofferdam, with the river rushing around you … setting the forms up to put in the footings for the abutments, so for the piers,” Best said.
“I don’t know if he gave it much thought that his life was possible in danger. He did a lot of things. I know he went on to build other bridges as well.”
Despite his family history with the current structure, Best said he’s happy to be witnessing its replacement.
“I’ve driven that bridge many times with bigger vehicles and it’s going to be much nicer, I think, with the new one,” he said.
The $1.4-billion replacement for the Pattullo Bridge will include much-needed upgrades, including protected walking and cycling lanes, better connections to, from and near the bridge, and a safer pathway for those crossing the bridge. It will also be built with two in-river piers, instead of the current six, to ease the project’s impact on the ecosystem.
Crews are currently building the replacement bridge’s upper cross beam and installing the anchor boxes for the stay cables that will support the new bridge deck, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said Wednesday.
Construction is almost complete on all main bridge foundation piers in Surrey and New Westminster and crews are installing girders that will support the new bridge deck over Highway 17 in Surrey.
The existing Pattullo Bridge will remain open until its replacement is ready, then taken apart and removed.
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