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City opts out of TransLink's Pattullo process

The City of New Westminster will be exploring the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge within its own master transportation plan rather than taking part in TransLink's planning process.

The City of New Westminster will be exploring the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge within its own master transportation plan rather than taking part in TransLink's planning process.

On Monday, council directed staff to advise TransLink that it wouldn't be engaging in TransLink's public process about the Pattullo Bridge at this time, as the city is including a public consultation process about all potential options as part of its master transportation plan.

"The bridge to New Westminster is probably one of the most important transportation nodes we will have. It will prob-ably be there for 100 years," said Mayor Wayne Wright. "It takes more than 'slap, dab, let's put it here.'"

Wright said the city firmly believes that the Pattullo Bridge needs to be considered within the context of the city's overall transportation network and it's not ready to take a stance on the alignment at this time.

"We are not going into this blind," he said. "We are going in so we have the proper information from our stakeholders, neighbouring communities."

Wright doesn't believe the city will be negatively impacted by not participating in TransLink's planning process.

"Quite the contrary - we want to prevent something going off the rails," he said. "We want to know our priorities first."

Wright said the city would be in a position to better convey the city's needs to TransLink after consulting with its residents through the master transportation plan process. He said TransLink also needs to consider the impact of the Port Mann Bridge when planning the new Pattullo Bridge, as that could create an "entirely new" transportation situation for the region.

Now underway, the city's master transportation plan will provide a framework for the city's transportation projects and provide input into the official community plan. Aspects will include the review and evaluation of transportation demand and supply for all modes of transportation including pedestrians, cyclists, transit, motorists and goods movement.

"The master transportation plan has to be done - and not piecemeal," Wright said. "We don't want to be seen as proponents of this. We will let them do as they do. We will be doing our own (plan) at the same time. It's not like we are washing our hands completely. We are standing back so we can have the input and see the issues."

TransLink has indicated it will launch public meetings in early 2012 regarding the replacement of Pattullo Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in the Lower Mainland.

"They are working on finalizing the date," said Eugene Wat, the city's manager of infrastructure planning. "They have indicated it is going to be close to the end of the month."

Wat said staff forwarded council's motion to TransLink to make them aware of the city's stance, but it's unknown whether the city's position will impact TransLink's public meetings.

"Council wanted to have a broader discussion with the community in New Westminster," Wat said. "We have the ongoing master transportation plan - we are engaging the community on transportation issues."

The City of New Westminster will include discussions about the new Pattullo Bridge as part of its master transportation plan. TransLink is a member of the advisory committee working on the city's master transportation plan.

Last February, TransLink stepped back from the planning that was being done for a replacement Pattullo Bridge and decided to prepare a business case for two options - refurbishing the existing bridge or building a new four-lane crossing. It later decided to pursue its original plan to build a new $1billion, six-lane bridge to replace the aging Pattullo Bridge.

According to TransLink's website, the plan is to connect the bridge to the arterials that are part of the regional major road network in Surrey and New Westminster, which includes McBride Boulevard, Royal Avenue and East Columbia Street. Front Street won't be included as it isn't part of the major road network.

During the 2011 civic election campaign, Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said he'd like the city to consider whether the Pattullo Bridge should even remain in New Westminster. He said he'd like TransLink to take another look at routing Pattullo Bridge through North Surrey and into Coquitlam, where it could better connect to routes like Highway 1 and North Road.

Wright said he'd like TransLink to consider all of the potential options for replacing the Pattullo Bridge, not only the existing location in New Westminster.