SURREY â€” The Ministry of Transportation is willing to fund a third of the cost of replacing the Pattullo Bridge – if the cities of Surrey and New Westminster are able to come to an agreement.
The announcement was made by B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone last week during his press conference on potentially moving the transit referendum.
"We will be prepared to commit funding one-third of major capital projects. Provided funding is restricted to major new rapid transit capitals and the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge," said Stone during his speech.
"The priorities must also fit in the provincial capital plan. Furthermore we will work with local governments and local advocates for matching contributions from the government of Canada."
When asked for further details, a ministry spokesperson replied with, "As the mayors create their regional plan, mayors need to know that the provincial government will fund one-third of major capital projects, as long as funding is used for major new rapid transit capital and the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge, and that it fits within the provincial capital plan."
Surrey Coun. Tom Gill, chair of Surrey’s Transportation Committee, said Stone’s comments were news to him and he welcomes any help in moving forward on the much-needed replacement.
"This is the first time specifically I’ve heard the province include the Pattullo Bridge in any context for additional funding and 33 cents on the dollar is fantastic," he said.
According to Gill, replacing the 77-yearold span would cost around $800 million for a four-lane bridge and $1 billion for a six-lane.
However, on the other side of the Fraser River, New Westminster has been accused of "filibustering" the replacement process by refusing to endorse a replacement plan at all. Instead, the Royal City has favoured upgrading the current bridge, which has recently begun to crumble and drop debris below.
New Wesminster’s concerns stem from the congestion a new bridge may cause, as it is already seeing mass congestion on its end. As such, council members previously indicated they would either want a refurbishment of the existing structure or a complete relocation.
"With New West saying to re-look at another option, I’m not sure how many times you can look at the same thing when it’s been clearly articulated that it doesn’t meet the future expectations," said Gill.
New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright said on CKNW radio this past weekend that his city was actively working with Surrey on the future of the Pattullo, something Gill takes issue with.
"I do not believe New West has been proactive in trying to come up with a longterm solution, to be frank with you," he said. "In fact I think New West is singularly looking at their own interests and I do appreciate that there is significant traffic going through those thoroughfares but this is not an issue that was created yesterday, this has been around since 1937."
PATTULLO SHOULDERS LOAD, DRIVERS AVOID PORT MANN
The discussion comes at the same time it was revealed use of the Port Mann Bridge has dipped by 6,000 drivers following the increase of tolls at the beginning of the year, while the crumbling Pattullo Bridge has seen an increase of almost that exact number of cars.
According to numbers released by both the Ministry of Transportation and TransLink last week, the Port Mann saw a three per cent drop in use compared to the same time last year following the increase of tolls from $1.50 to $3 at the beginning of 2014. Comparatively, the Pattullo Bridge saw an increase of about 10 per cent daily traffic, or 6,135.
As a result, the Ministry of Transportation has had to adjust the revenue estimates for the Port Mann, which are now expected to come in 20 per cent under what was initially forecast for the next three years.
Stone said last week that the fluctuations in use was expected as drivers adjust to the new tolls, but added that numbers are expected to return back to normal in the coming months.
At the same time the Golden Ears Bridge continues to be a money loser, costing TransLink $40 million annually due to lower than expected use since opening in 2009.
Gill said it’s clear the Pattullo’s traffic is coming from the Port Mann and with the structure literally beginning to crumble, he wondered if it’s going to take a disaster before action is finally taken on the issue.
"Here you’ve got a structure that’s being utilized more and you’ve got an extra 6,000 people using it per day and you know for a fact that if there’s an earthquake then that bridge is done," he said.
Additionally, Gill said that since 2002 there have been 40 technical studies, seven safety analyses, 10 structural studies and 12 functional design studies done on the Pattullo alone.
"How much money can you continue to spend?" he wondered.
"My understanding is that since 2002 when TransLink took over, they’ve spent upwards of $4 million on all of these studies, so I think it would be safe to assume it’s time for action against looking at another study."
With a file from Vancouver Sun