BOOTH: Surrey, New Westminster’s chestbeating over Pattullo Bridge rings hollow

I love nature documentaries – you know, the shows that film animals in the wild, behaving normally in their environment without the electric fences, moats, glass windows and concrete walls that zoos erect in the name of giving visitors a "natural setting" in which to view the animals.

There’s been a really cool drama unfolding in the last couple of months and I think it’s all about neighbouring silverback gorillas defending their territory on opposite sides of a river.

You see, there’s this bridge and both bands of gorillas want control over it. So the beasts take turns beating their chests and panthooting and making mock charges at their opponents in an effort to impose their will over the precious span.

Meanwhile, the other gorillas in the area watch from afar, enjoying the spectacle while hoping the blowhards can settle this dispute so the rest of the population can get on with the business of living along the river.

It’s so lifelike that it took me a couple of weeks of watching before I realized I wasn’t tuned into a nature channel offering about gorillas. I was actually watching the news and the silverbacks were just politicians from Surrey and New Westminster arguing over the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge.

TransLink announced its intentions for replacing the Pattullo in 2008, but it’s only recently that the gorillas – sorry, politicians – have become noticeably active. There is a municipal election looming in November and as a result, the chest thumping and pant-hoots have reached ear-splitting levels on both sides of the river.

New Westminster wants a four-lane bridge; Surrey wants six lanes.

Surrey is opposed to tolling the new span; New Westminster has no problem with paying as you cross.

New Westminster wants to ban heavy trucks from the route; Surrey believes traffic is traffic no matter what size.

New West is concerned about increased traffic through residential areas; Surrey says "What the heck, it’s Bridgeview. The people there live with auto wreckers, salvage companies and other industrial enterprises. The extra noise won’t be noticed."

The truth is, a new span crossing the Fraser River between New West and Surrey is long overdue. The Pattullo Bridge was opened in 1937 to handle traffic of that era, not the daily crush of vehicles it copes with.

Statistics show the current bridge handles 67,000 cars and 3,400 trucks each and every weekday, traffic that accounts for 20 per cent of all vehicles crossing the Fraser River.

The problem is the cities of New Westminster and Surrey have two vastly differing agendas regarding a new span. Most New West residents don’t use the bridge for commuting, as Vancouver is the more likely destination for trips to work. As such, trips over the Pattullo are for day excursions to the United States or into Surrey and Langley for other business and activities.

So for New West politicians, demands limiting the lanes on a new bridge, banning big trucks and hitting drivers with tolls are all matters that will have minimum impact on city residents.

On the other side of the Fraser, the Pattullo Bridge is a much more critical link for Surrey residents. The bridge is an essential crossing for commuters as well as those driving north to link up with the Trans Canada Highway.

And now with the addition of the new South Fraser Perimeter Road, drivers from Ladner, Richmond and Tsawwassen are also making use of the Pattullo for quick access to New West, Coquitlam, Burnaby and beyond.

As such, Surrey politicians are easily agitated when the subject of the Pattullo Bridge arises. While New West officials can casually insist that TransLink must bring them a shrubbery as a tribute, Surrey’s leaders know how much of an impact any of their northern neighbour’s demands will have on the electorate on the south banks of the Fraser.

And so we’re back to the gorillas posturing on the banks of the river in an effort to win the support of their respective populations. Both sets of silverbacks are preaching to a choir with neither side moving any closer to their goal of solving the problem of replacing the bridge.

The obvious solution to this standoff is for the provincial government to take ownership of the mess. Victoria built the Pattullo Bridge in the 1930s and maintained it for decades before offloading responsibility for the span onto TransLink.

The provincial government is currently planning the replacement of the Massey Tunnel linking Richmond and Delta, so why can’t the Liberals under Christy Clark take ownership of the Pattullo as well? Same river, same issues, right? Oh wait, here comes another band of gorillas to the party. It seems the dominant species of great ape in New West and the northern reaches/ridings of Surrey are all socialists, a completely different species from the gorillas running loose in the verdant forests of Victoria…

Michael Booth can be reached at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Five Surrey schools reporting COVID-19 exposures, including another at Panorama Ridge

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read