Opinion: Pattullo replacement has plenty of cool New West ‘connections’

Chris Campbell

So much – too much - of the conversation surrounding the Pattullo Bridge replacement has been people arguing about if the new bridge should be four lanes or six.

Well, it’s going to be four lanes (a good thing) and the BC NDP government isn’t changing its mind about it, so let’s talk about what we know from the drawings that have been released about the project.

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You can check them all out here on the project website, or look at the graphic above – just scroll on the rendering to see a larger graphic showing all of the “connections” on the New Westminster side of this $1.4-billion project.

These connections are vital to New West, both in regards to vehicle traffic, and areas for pedestrians and cyclists to travel in order to move east-west, and north-south, including getting on and off the bridge.

To New West, four lanes is enough, although the bridge could be expanded one day to six lanes. (I think that would be a mistake and argued that point here.)

“The bottom line is we are saying there is simply no room for road expansions on the New Westminster side,” said Jim Lowrie, the city’s director of engineering, in a previous Record article. “We are a historic city. Our road network is essentially fixed. We just think there is simply no room to expand roads.”

One area of the bridge replacement that does seem troublesome is with the off-ramp that takes northbound traffic coming from Surrey onto East Columbia Street. When the pandemic ends (if?), and vehicle traffic sadly returns to its terrible levels, I could see vehicles getting backed up all the way back to the bridge as vehicles try and merger onto East Columbia.

The real positives come with the pedestrian-cycling features of the connections.

pattullo bridge replacement
B.C. Government

There’s the new Agnes-Royal walking and cycling overpass that will connect the future Agnes Greenway with the new multi-use path on Royal. I also like the new signalized intersection that “provides a better connection for people walking between Royal and Queen's Park.” There’s also the E. Columbia walking and cycling overpass that connects the bridge multi-use path to the Central Valley Greenway.

 “Improved walking and cycling paths will connect to the bridge and facilitate better east-west travel across the city,” says the project website.

Here are some other features.

Urban Integration

  • – All multi-use paths will be separated from roads by barriers or boulevards.
  • – Installation of medians and boulevards on McBride and Royal.
  • – Road improvements and multi-use paths will meet urban design aesthetics.
  • – Walking and cycling facilities will include bike racks, seating, wayfinding, and lighting.

I think it’s better to focus on these walking-cycling benefits more than any vehicle improvements. I don’t think it will solve the traffic woes, nor should people expect it to. Building more roads and bridges rarely ever makes traffic better because it usually just attracts more traffic. Adding tolls would have been a good idea, but that’s not going to happen.

The main reason for the bridge is replacing a piece of infrastructure that is well past its time. The bridge is unsafe and has been for decades.

When it’s completed at the end of 2023 or early 2024, drivers will be safer with the wider lanes, and pedestrians and cyclists will have plenty of new options.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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