A three-day celebration of the Pattullo Bridge – and a quieter time for reflection – are being proposed for the Pattullo Bridge.
Coun. Daniel Fontaine presented city council with a motion about inviting the community to celebrate and say goodbye to the Pattullo Bridge. His motion noted the Pattullo Bride is an “iconic” part of the city’s history and is slated to be replaced by a wider, more modern bridge in 2024.
When that happens, Fontaine would like the public to have an opportunity to experience the Pattullo Bridge without truck and vehicle traffic.
“I think it would be a great opportunity for us, if that bridge were closed down and decommissioned, to allow the public an opportunity to be able to walk across it, cycle, take their scooter, go along with whatever mode of transportation they want to do,” he said. “This would allow them to do that.”
Fontaine said there are some amazing views of the Fraser River and Golden Ears from the Pattullo Bridge, but few people walk across the bridge and get a chance to see them.
“Few people do this, given the safety concerns,” he said. “Most of us have just seen it from behind the wheel of our car or perhaps in the passenger seat, and it doesn’t do it justice.”
Fontaine’s motion proposed a three-day closure of the bridge after the new crossing opens. During that three-day period, he’d like to see a one day set aside for a day-long, community-based street festival on the bridge.
“I’d love to see some food trucks on there. I’d love to see some kids, families, just people from all sectors of our society on the Pattullo Bridge one last time to say goodbye,” he said. “Some people might be happy with that, and others might be a bit sad and a bit dismayed that the bridge is disappearing.”
Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said some people have nostalgic feelings about the bridge and some photographers would like a chance to get on the bridge when there’s no traffic to take photos, but not everyone has fond memories of the bridge. He said there have been fatalities on the bridge due to suicide and traffic crashes.
“And as early as 2006, part of the reason for replacing it was it had begun to be described as the killer bridge,” he said of traffic fatalities. “So I supported the replacement of the Pattullo, knowing that it could have some impact on New Westminster but because it’s such a dangerous bridge.”
Council approved McEvoy’s amendment that a memorial day or event be held in recognition of the lives lost and harmed on the bridge. Fontaine supported the “really wonderful addition” to his motion, saying it recognizes those who don’t have fond memories of the bridge and could provide people with a quiet opportunity for reflection.
McEvoy’s amendment easily passed a vote by council, but additional amendments to Fontaine’s motion generated a bit of back-and-forth discussion. Some councillors were concerned the wording of Fontaine’s motion may give the impression the city would be organizing the community celebration.
“I just don’t want us to be in a discussion with them, and all of a sudden (we) are having to plan it with them,” said Coun. Ruby Campbell. “Because I don’t know if they have staff capacity.”
Coun. Nadine Nakagawa said she supports having the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and/or TransLink take the lead on this event. She did propose an amendment that the city be in a conversation with them about the event.
“I do think it is important that we add the clarity that we are not proposing that we host or co-host this event, that that we are intending to ask them to do an event, but we would like to put input into it,” she said. “So again, I think we have amended, amended to get very close to the original motion. But I do think that it is actually more specific in our communication to them.”
After a 25-minute discussion, council approved a motion to have the mayor write a letter on behalf of council to the BC Ministry of Transportation and TransLink to determine the feasibility of opening the Pattullo Bridge to pedestrian, cycle and other non-vehicle modes of transportation for a period of three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), subsequent to the opening of the new bridge. It also stated that council notify the ministry and TransLink that the city want them to facilitate a community-based celebration of the Pattullo Bridge by way of an on-bridge, daylong street festival during that three[-day public access period.
“There’s been a lot of interest already, just since the motion has been out in the public the last couple of weeks,” Fontaine said. “I’ve had a lot of people say they’re really looking forward to council supporting this, for us getting going and in discussions with the province – and for us to have a three-day Pattullo party.”