BUCHOLTZ: New Pattullo Bridge overcomes years of crossed purposes

Province has finally broken logjam over financing of new span for Surrey and New Westminster

Premier John Horgan was in New Westminster last Friday to announce the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge.

The province has finally broken the frustrating logjam over financing of a new bridge. It has taken over the project in its entirety and will pay the $1.377 billion to build the new bridge and demolish the old one when the new bridge opens in 2023. Construction is to begin in the summer of 2019.

When TransLink was set up under the NDP government of Glen Clark, as part of the wheeling and dealing to set up a more locally controlled approach to transportation, the Pattullo became TransLink’s responsibility. Even then, in the late-1990s, the bridge was nearing the end of its lifespan.

TransLink directors talked many times about the need to replace it, and it was placed on a number of priority lists ­– but TransLink never found the capital funds needed.

TransLink plans, right up to the last provincial election, called for any replacement bridge to be tolled. Of course, Horgan campaigned on a promise to get rid of existing tolls, so the TransLink plan was effectively dead in the water.

The new Mayors’ Council chair Derek Corrigan, mayor of Burnaby, rightly identified replacement of the bridge as a top priority when he ousted Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson from the post in December.

Horgan and Corrigan are quite friendly, and there may well have been quiet discussion about how to proceed with the project. The first public clue that something was in the works came in last week’s throne speech.

The new bridge will be built slightly upstream of the current bridge, closer to the rail bridge. Built in 1904, the rail bridge once had an upper deck for vehicle traffic (which was mainly horses and buggies). That was removed when the Pattullo opened in 1937, but it is still heavily used by rail traffic.

The new bridge will be four lanes, expandable to six. There will be cycling and pedestrian lanes on both sides.

The Pattullo was built by the provincial government when T.D. Pattullo was premier. It was a much-needed project in the midst of the Great Depression, at a time when all governments had little money to spare.

It is interesting that no one from Surrey was acknowledged as attending Friday’s announcement. Numerous NDP MLAs and mayors were welcomed but none were from Surrey – even though the city’s continued growth is a key reason why the bridge needs to be replaced.

The Surrey Board of Trade states the bridge should be six lanes wide, but that idea has been unpopular in New Westminster. There are plenty of Surrey and Delta drivers plugging New Westminster streets.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson feels the announcement of the new Pattullo effectively means there will be no replacement of the Massey Tunnel.

Horgan was asked about that Friday, and said the tunnel replacement project planned by the former BC Liberal government is under review.

Time will tell what will happen at that equally outdated Fraser River crossing.

Frank Bucholtz writes Fridays for the Now-Leader.


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