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Burnaby reluctant to support New West's bridge proposal

Some Burnaby councillors say it's better to tear down the Pattullo Bridge and not replace it, rather than build a new, tolled four-lane crossing. That was among the councillors' reactions to New Westminster Coun.

Some Burnaby councillors say it's better to tear down the Pattullo Bridge and not replace it, rather than build a new, tolled four-lane crossing.

That was among the councillors' reactions to New Westminster Coun. Bill Harper's presentation on his city's proposal to replace the Pattullo with a new tolled, four-lane bridge at the Burnaby council meeting on Monday night.

New Westminster is starting a tour across the Lower Mainland to present its position on a replacement bridge, and its first stop was Burnaby council in an effort to rally support for its vision.

"New Westminster already had significant traffic challenges due to our location at the centre of the region and this traffic is already affecting the livability and economic viability of the city, and indeed the region," he said to council. "Adding the Pattullo as a free alternative only exacerbated the negative impacts on our residents and businesses. And I'm sure that's the case in Burnaby, as well, since a good sizeable portion of the traffic comes across the Pattullo Bridge and runs through your main connectors."

Harper said a new, tolled four-lane bridge is best and that his city believes a direct connection needs to link the South Fraser Perimeter Road with the Port Mann Bridge. New West also supports the reallocation of capital cost savings from the tolls into other rapid transit objectives, such as Surrey's LRT proposal.

"The provincial government recently announced that they were prepared to pay a certain amount of money for the reconstruction of the Pattullo Bridge," he said. "What we're saying here is toll the bridge and put that money into rapid transit."

Harper said before the Port Mann Bridge was tolled, traffic had been decreasing on the 77-year-old Pattullo, which was originally built as a local connector between neighbouring municipalities and was not a required part of the provincial highway system.

"All that changed when tolls were introduced," he said of the Port Mann. "Port Mann tolls led to a significant increase in traffic, including truck traffic over the bridge to major arterial streets and local streets as drivers seek to find the faster ways to avoid congestion."

Harper said there's simply little room within New Westminster's narrow and historical streets to accommodate additional traffic without adversely affecting its own neighbourhoods, institutions and community areas. He said the problem is Surrey's proposal for a six-lane, freeway style bridge to replace the old Pattullo.

Councillors Nick Volkow and Dan Johnston said they supported New Westminster's four-lane proposal.

Volkow asked if anyone is keeping track of the traffic on the Pattullo in light of the Port Metro Vancouver truck driver's strike, to see if and how traffic has improved.

However, councillors Colleen Jordan, Paul McDonell and Sav Dhaliwal had different ideas on how to deal with the Pattullo Bridge issue.

McDonell said truck traffic should be forced back on to the Port Mann Bridge, and the Pattullo should be torn down and not replaced at all.

"I don't know if we really need that bridge," he noted. "I'm not being facetious. No bridge at all. Tear it down."

McDonell also said if a bridge is built, it shouldn't allow trucks.

"We've got to stop, why do we worry about those people," he said. "Let them travel another 15 or 20 kilometres. Why should we be building for the convenience of them and subjecting our citizens to the outpouring of all of the problems we have with them?"

Harper said the problem is Surrey wants a six-lane bridge.

"Well, that's their problem," McDonell said.

Harper said it becomes New Westminster's problem if Surrey gets its way and builds a six-lane bridge because all that traffic would end up on his city's streets.

Jordan echoed McDonell's opinion of tearing down the bridge and not replacing it, or if the new bridge could ban truck traffic like the Lion's Gate Bridge.

Dhaliwal had a different idea, which is to connect McBride Boulevard with Highway 1 because 10th Avenue, Canada Way and Kingsway have all been adversely affected by the bridge traffic.

"Every car that crosses the Pattullo goes down through Burnaby," he said. "We have a lineup here .... Guess where that traffic is going? It all flows through Canada Way, 10th Avenue, McBride and the Pattullo."

Dhaliwal said a four-lane bridge would only increase traffic. He noted that tolls most likely would not help as the province will most likely end up tolling all bridges at some point in the future.

Mayor Derek Corrigan said Harper can report back to his city saying that many Burnaby councillors think "four lanes was too generous."

"There hasn't been a decision made, but certainly you can tell that most of us are worried about the impact of that traffic coming through our city," he said. "From my point of view, I was there when we bought the bridge off the province for $1, and it was a very expensive purchase."

Corrigan said when the Pattullo transferred into TransLink's responsibility in 1998, it was promised that it would be good for 35 years.

"The engineers that made that original assessment, I don't know where they went, but they should be held accountable for it," he said. "One good piece of news out of all this is around the Lower Mainland, despite Surrey's position, across the Lower Mainland mayors are coming to agreement that they don't want more lanes of traffic and that is a broad consensus that's been reached."

Corrigan said he's advised Surrey that the only way it would create its own city centre is by making sure it isn't easy for people to get to Downtown Vancouver.

"I think in the long run, them declining the increase of road capacity will help them to build a better city and it's good for all of us if Surrey becomes that centre on the other side of the Fraser River."

Corrigan said staff will be working on a report to advise Burnaby on how to proceed regarding New West's proposal.