Replacement bridge will require toll to cross
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
After years of deliberation, a referendum, and a scrapped upgrading plan, Surrey and New Westminster have agreed on the details of a new Pattullo Bridge.
The bridge will be four lanes wide, with the potential to later expand to six lanes. Bike lanes will also be installed. TransLink, who is funding one-third of the new bridge, hopes to start construction on the bridge by fall 2017.
In the meanwhile, the current and aging Pattullo will be upgraded to last until the new bridge can be opened.
As a way of recovering the costs of construction, expected to be approximately $1 billion, and to deter excessive traffic going through New Westminster and Surrey, the new bridge will be tolled.
“Since they put the toll on the Port Mann Bridge we’ve seen a significant diversion of traffic in our community,” New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote said to Global News. “Being the toll-free alternative had a negative impact on traffic congestion.”
The bridge has experienced an increase of usage since the Port Mann Bridge was completed, taking on an addition 20,000 trips daily.
However, there are concerns that the newly tolled Pattullo Bridge and the potential toll on the upcoming George Massey Bridge will result in massive congestion for the Alex Fraser Bridge, which would remain the only un-tolled Fraser River crossing in Metro Vancouver
“The current tolling system is definitely not working and has actually led to greater congestion, so we’ve supported the new bridge to be a tolled structure,” Cote said to CBC.
Cote expressed that he hopes that the toll on the Pattullo will be temporary, and that the provincial government will implement road pricing, a more even distribution of tolls on bridges, or peak time tolling to help fund BC infrastructure. He suggested that the Mayors’ Council should assemble to plan a way to fund future infrastructure that would be more equitable to all municipalities and that would benefit Metro Vancouver as a whole.
However, the provincial government hopes that difficult infrastructure-related decisions will be left to the municipal governments.
“The decision respecting a toll on the Pattullo is a decision for the mayors and TransLink to make,” Transportation Minister Todd Stone said to Global News.
When asked about leaving the Alex Fraser un-tolled, Stone explained to the Surrey Now that there are still several years before the George Massey Bridge begins construction, and that a course of action would be chosen closer to that time.