City pushes for better bridge access

New Westminster continues to push for a review of a better connection between the South Fraser Perimeter Road and the new Port Mann Bridge.

The City of New Westminster is working with TransLink and Surrey on a review of the Pattullo Bridge project. The city is concerned that commuters, and especially truck drivers, will take the Pattullo Bridge through New Westminster to avoid a longer route to get from the South Fraser to the new Port Mann Bridge.

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While attending the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, several city officials had a chance to chat with Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Mary Polak about the Pattullo Bridge and the city's belief that a better connection needs to be built from the South Fraser Perimeter Road to the Port Mann Bridge.

"I found that Minster Polak was probably the most versed on this," said Coun. Chuck Puchmayr. "She had done her research, she understood the file."

New Westminster officials informed the minister that 70 to 85 per cent of traffic coming over the Pattullo Bridge has no business in New Westminster.

"Anything other than having a direct connection to the Port Mann Bridge would have a significant impact on New Westminster," he said. "I think she understands there is no capacity in New Westminster."

An Oct. 1 staff report to council said that the South Fraser Perimeter Road is a provincial inter-regional route for commercial vehicle movement and links key industrial and port activity areas located on the south side of the Fraser River. The city's view is that TransLink's current proposal to introduce a direct connection between South Fraser Perimeter Royal and the future Pattullo Bridge needs to be "reexamined" in collaboration with TransLink and the City of Surrey, and a direct ramp connection between South Fraser Perimeter Road and Highway 1 needs to be examined in more detail.

Puchmayr said the city received a 2001 planning document that showed a connection to the Port Mann Bridge from South Fraser Perimeter Road was considered, using 152nd Street, but it was determined that 176th Street would provide a more direct interregional link. He said that report was done before twinning of the highway and Port Mann was approved.

Puchmayr said the city needs to counter information, which states that a direct connection from South Fraser Perimeter Road to the Port Mann Bridge at 152nd Street isn't feasible.

"I know the adverse impact this will have on New Westminster," he said. "It will have such a severe impact to have that volume of traffic day and night going through for no reason other than the connection is wrong."

Instead of direct connection at 152nd Street, he said trucks would be forced to 176th Street, a detour that would increase greenhouse gas emissions and negatively impact air quality.

"Would they travel 23 km and pay a toll, or would they inch through traffic in New Westminster, idling and not paying a toll?" Puchmayr questioned about truck drivers.

Under the current plan, Puchmayr said trucks would travel 23 kilometres from South Fraser Perimeter Road to access the Port Mann Bridge.

He said the trip is reduced to 10 km by taking the Pattullo Bridge through New Westminster, and would be nine km if a direct connection was created from South Fraser Perimeter Road to the Port Mann Bridge.

Coun. Bill Harper said the report shows that the issue of a connection at 152nd Street was considered in the past and wasn't ruled out because of grade concerns, as has been recently suggested. "It is not only practical, it was considered."

Coun. Jonathan Cote said the 2001 report provides it with useful information that the city must consider when developing a position about the Pattullo Bridge. He noted that the South Fraser Perimeter Road was never intended to connect with the Pattullo Bridge, even though recent proposals have included designated truck lanes.

Puchmayr believes that improving connections to the Port Mann Bridge for trucks would eliminate the need to build a new Pattullo Bridge.

He said money saved by renovating the existing Pattullo Bridge, rather than building a new bridge, could be directed toward improved access to the Port Mann from South Fraser Perimeter Road.

Although construction of the Port Mann Bridge is well underway, Puchmayr firmly believes there's time to improve connections to the bridge for truckers.

"I certainly don't see them revisiting it right now because there is an election pending. I do see that this will get looked at again, whether it is under this government or another government," he said. "It makes no sense to do what they are doing.

tmcmanus@royalcityrecord.com

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