Coquitlam weighs in on Pattullo Bridge plans

COQUITLAM — All signs point to six as far as Coquitlam council is concerned regarding any future plans for the Pattullo Bridge.

Council endorsed a plan Monday that calls for a new six-lane bridge to be built in the area where the current bridge is located.

The city’s recommendation calls for tolls to be included on the new bridge, which could cost between $850 million and $1.5 billion. The plan would see an option to have six lanes built outright, with two of those lanes initially being designated as HOV. If traffic demands increase, those HOV lanes could be used for different functions.

"I don’t know that anybody will agree with the idea that we’re going to take a four-lane bridge that’s been there for decades – and has needed replacement for a couple of decades – and replace with four lanes and toll it," said Mayor Richard Stewart.

Monday’s discussion comes as part of a three-phase process being undertaken by TransLink and partner municipalities to identify ways to rehabilitate a structure built more than 70 years ago.

Twenty-five models have been examined during the process, a number that has been whittled down to six. Each of the six alternatives presented include pedestrian and cycling facilities, as well as some form of tolling.

Traffic forecasting models show that a new four-lane bridge would result in 78,500 trips by 2045, while a six-lane bridge would accommodate 86,500 trips.

The bridge is currently at capacity with 76,000 vehicle crossings per day. Traffic forecasts suggest that number would decrease to 49,500 if a new four-lane tolled bridge opened today, as commuters would take alternate routes.

However, that capacity of 76,000-plus trips would again be reached by 2045 under a fourlane tolled configuration.

Some on council felt building a six-lane bridge in today’s dollars makes more sense than having to retrofit or improve the bridge in the future. The replacement bridge is being built to accommodate an 80-to 100-year lifespan.

"To build it to 2045 standards really limits your investment in the dollars spent if you go to a four-lane bridge," said Coun. Brent Asmundson. "It doesn’t make economic sense."

Other major players in the bridge’s replacement, namely Surrey and New Westminster, have also weighed in. According to a city staff report, New West’s preferred option is a new four-lane bridge with tolls.

"[New Westminster] also notes that they could support further consideration of a new Surrey-Coquitlam Bridge with three-lane rehabilitated Pattullo Bridge as they see it as a means to mitigate through traffic including truck traffic in their community," the staff report notes.

Surrey has not taken a formal position on the bridge, though some media reports suggest Surrey council backs a six-lane bridge with no tolls. Should the Pattullo be tolled in the future, the Alex Fraser Bridge would remain as the only Surrey crossing not subject to tolls.

"I understand both sides of this [discussion], and we’re left with the region having to make the decision with some really unacceptable options before us," Stewart said.

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