Surrey businesses are wrong to want 6 lanes for Pattullo replacement

Chris Campbell

The Surrey Board of Trade has jumped into the debate about the Pattullo Bridge replacement project, saying its members want the new span to be six lanes and not the proposed four lanes.

The group released the results of its Surrey Road Survey, which has data compiled from the 25 per cent of the SBOT’s 6,000-member contacts who responded.

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The one item that is of interest to New Westminster residents is that 82 per cent of respondents want it to be six lanes on opening day.

“We need planning and action that anticipates needs and that results in infrastructure construction well in advance of increased demand, not long after the capacity is exceeded,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade.
I take some issue with Huberman’s statement in regards to the Pattullo project because it makes a giant assumption that more lanes on a bridge equal better traffic flow. As we’ve seen in study after study, there is a phenomenon called “induced demand” that shows adding more traffic lanes only attracts more traffic.

I don’t necessarily see the Pattullo Bridge replacement as being an answer to traffic congestion. I’m sure it should help flow somewhat, but it’s really more of an issue of safety.

The Pattullo Bridge is a notoriously dangerous bridge, with narrow lanes and curves that have seen their fair share of crashes.

The bridge, built in 1937, is at the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced if it’s going to continue to serve its current role. Now, I do have some thoughts about if the bridge should actually be replaced at all that I’m sure will be controversial. Basically, I have some support for the idea of just demolishing the bridge and taking the replacement money – a whopping $1.377 billion – and pouring it into dramatically increased transit and cycling infrastructure.

We need to veer farther away from road culture. It’s not sustainable. We need to find more ways to move jobs into cities like Surrey so people don’t have to commute through New West – a reality that makes life miserable for New West residents and harms the environment.

Yes, I’m sure people will lose their minds over this. It’s not a simple idea. It would cause some pain, but our society needs to make some painful decisions.

But I doubt the bridge will not be built. The provincial government has announced it is taking on the role of designing, financing and building it. The new bridge has been included in the mayors’ council on regional transportation’s 10-year vision for the region.

Claire Trevena, minister of transportation and infrastructure, said in February 2018 that there are 68,000 crossings of the Pattullo Bridge each day. She said there are “serious safety concerns” with the structure, noting there are times when trucks straddle lanes when crossing the bridge.

The new bridge will have four lanes vehicle lanes, as well as specific lanes for cyclists and pedestrians on both sides.

I don’t see that changing because that would mean dramatically increasing the project’s budget. Unless a new provincial government takes over from the BC NDP and changes the project’s scope.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44

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