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New Westminster residents to rally against six-lane Pattullo Bridge

A number of Royal City residents are rallying together to oppose a six-lane Pattullo Bridge. The June 23 rally will start at Sapperton Park at 9:30 a.m. and proceed to Sapperton Pensioners Hall for 10 a.m.

A number of Royal City residents are rallying together to oppose a six-lane Pattullo Bridge.

The June 23 rally will start at Sapperton Park at 9:30 a.m. and proceed to Sapperton Pensioners Hall for 10 a.m., where TransLink is holding an open house until 3 p.m. about the Pattullo Bridge replacement project. Rally organizers are stressing their opposition to a six-lane Pattullo Bridge and support for immediate transit improvements to Surrey.

New Westminster resident Patrick Johnstone said several public forums have demonstrated a near unanimous position that the increase in traffic that would result from the larger bridge cannot be accommodated in New Westminster and would have severe impacts on the livability of the city.

Johnstone told The Record Thursday that organizers had no details about what TransLink will be releasing at its first open house about the Pattullo Bridge, which was scheduled for Thursday night in Surrey. He noted that information presented at recent stakeholders' meeting called for a six-lane bridge with different off-ramps, with input being sought about residents' preferences for off-ramps from the new bridge.

"That seems to be at odds with the communication they have had with the city," he added. "It's rather unclear to us. It seems they are willing to go back to the table and talk to the city and evaluate all options."

In a June 15 letter to the city, TransLink states that it is prepared to establish a collaborative process with New Westminster and Surrey to review a number of issues, including all practical solutions for crossings and crossing locations, bridge capacity and lane allocations for the Pattullo Bridge.

The June 23 rally is being organized by a grassroots group comprised of community members from both sides of the Fraser River. Supporters include New Westminster school trustees Jonina Campbell and David Phelan, the Surrey Citizens Transportation Initiative and New Westminster Environmental Partners.

"We need to put transit first when it comes to TransLink resources," said Steve Burke, spokesperson for the Surrey Citizens Transportation Initiative. "There is no division between our communities about the basics; global warming and the end of cheap oil means we need to focus on improving transit instead of roadway expansion for cars and trucks."

Reena Meijer Drees, president of New Westminster Environmental Partners, said it's critical to give people south of the Fraser River mobility options other than the automobile.

The organizers are also concerned about the "lack of fairness in their public consultation process", noting that TransLink announced the six-lane replacement for the Pattullo Bridge without any open dialogue or independent verification on the feasibility of other options.

"Clearly, we need some dialogue," said Johnstone, one of the rally's organizers. "Previous TransLink open houses only allowed for the public to have input on a narrow range of options for bridge location and connections, details that come late in the planning stage."

Johnstone said that Surrey residents have been clamoring for more transit infrastructure, and TransLink has been claiming poverty, but still wants to spend $1 billion on infrastructure for cars.

While many New Westminster residents have voiced opposition to a six-lane replacement for the Pattullo Bridge, opponents also include residents already affected by the South Fraser Perimeter Road, some residents in the Bridgeview neighbourhood in Surrey, South Fraser Ontrax (a group advocating for better transit for Surrey and Langley) and the Surrey Citizens Transportation Initiative (which has concerns about transportation infrastructure priorities).

Trustees Campbell and Phelan said the rally is an opportunity to show officials the range of people who are concerned about the impact of traffic on local communities, and the lack of transportation choices and proper public consultation.

"Today's decisions will affect our future and our children's future," they said in a press release.