Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

“Fixes to deadly Pattullo Bridge delayed again”

with 5 comments

Vancouver Sun

New Westminster Fraser Bridges aerial

As always everyone blames the infrastructure. When I started work back in the seventies, I had to deal with press stories headed “Killer Canal Strikes Again” as though somehow the canal had leapt from its banks and slaughtered the innocent. The tail end of the Sun’s story says it all for me

Local police said Thursday they are looking forward to news of how the bridge will be fixed.

“There’s obvious public concern with regards to the safety of the Pattullo Bridge,” said Surrey RCMP Sgt. Roger Morrow. “Any improvements are being welcomed.”

New Westminster Police Sgt. Ivan Chu said most crashes on the bridge are caused by drivers following too closely or making unsafe lane changes, and speeding is a particular problem at night.

“It’s the curve stretch where most of the accidents happen,” he said. “Because they clip one another because the lanes are so narrow.”

Chu called the bridge “daunting to drive…. It’s difficult to drive when you haven’t driven over it, because you have two curves, it’s uphill and then it’s downhill, and the lanes are very narrow.”

Hardie said there have been no front-end crashes on the bridge since centre-lane nighttime closures were introduced.

“The Pattullo Bridge is a perfectly safe bridge and people can cross perfectly safely if they maintain the proper speed and just drive safely,” he said.

Just as the Sea to Sky Highway was “perfectly safe” but presented an irresistible challenge to people with fast cars to see just how quickly they could get from Vancouver to Whistler. And, of course, a frightful number did not make it at all.

The answer to unsafe driving is not widening or straightening but enforcement of the existing laws. As I have written here more than once, average speed cameras are an obvious, low cost and highly effective solution. Following too closely and making unsafe lane changes might need additional cctv which would need to be monitored – but that is a lot safer than putting police personnel at risk on the bridge itself. And we do not need to study this, or have a pilot program. All it needs is for the Provincial Government to end its stubborn persistence in a policy that was introduced very early in its mandate, and was simply a way to appeal to the people who saw photo radar as a “tax grab”. Indeed, it can even be announced as a way to save lives while the “problem” of the bridge is being reviewed.

For I will bet that a few months after it is introduced the “problem” will have been solved.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 30, 2008 at 10:18 am

5 Responses

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  1. The solution for the Pattullo Bridge must include a new rail crossing (at least 3 tracks) of the Fraser river. The GVRD in the late 70’s recognized this and created a 3-way concept for a new Fraser Bridge. The bridge had high-level road and LRT lines (for the then planned light rail) and a two track lift span for the mainline railways. For those who wish to disbelieve, I have a sketch of the proposed bridge and the said GVRD LRT study.

    Today, one can see the folly of the proprietary SkyTrain ICTS/ALRT/ALM/ART light metro system as its Sky-Bridge can only be used by SkyTrain. Such out of date thinking, that is still prevalent with TransLink, METRO and the provincial government.

    Today the combined road/rail bridge would have six lanes of traffic and a three track drawbridge. Over 30 years later, technical innovation means LRT can track-share with the mainline railways and a ‘fast-lift’ draw bridge would negate the need for a more complicated lift span.

    When I was in the Netherlands in the mid 80’s, there was a 4 lane drawbridge crossing a canal, near the place I was staying. It took 45 seconds to rise and 30 seconds to lower and the bridge was in operation at least 6 to 10 times an hour!

    Certainly a new and larger Fraser river crossing would negate the need to twin the Port Mann and with a new multi track rail crossing, open the way for cheap ‘rail’ transit.

    Malcolm J.

    May 30, 2008 at 10:42 am

  2. Stephen, the Vancouver Foundation is inviting citizens to rate Metro Vancouver communities with a survey they will send to volunteers who sign up. I have volunteered and know several others who have done the same.

    My sense is that attitudes are changing faster and for the better towards transit and the environment, and I hope that’s reflected in these surveys. Just checking their info I find it very interesting that the per capita rate of car ownership in Surrey is 14% compared to only 4% in Vancouver, but Surrey’s population isn’t that far behind Vancouver’s.

    Here’s the link. I encourage your readers to participate.


    May 30, 2008 at 3:26 pm

  3. What about making it only one lane in each direction? 😉 That would do the trick. Heck, the SkyBridge is right there, and every single person who drives across that bridge passes the Scott Road Station. Mind you, TransLink would probably reply with a resounding “carpool! carpool!” because goodness knows the SkyTrain is currently full to the brink… well, in the rush hour direction, anyway… at least on the Expo Line.

    Today traffic was moving smoothly in both directions over the Pattullo around 6:15, but traffic on the waterfront road underneath was crawling along.

    Erika Rathje

    May 30, 2008 at 11:14 pm

  4. The Patullo Bridge was originally 2 lanes, just like the Lions Gate Bridge. Trouble is Erika, SkyTrain is no use to the vast majority of car drivers and again demonstrates the problems with light-metro: it is too expensive to build to service many destinations.

    The GVRD predicted in 1980 that SkyTrain would carry over 20,000 pphpd, in the peak hour, by the year 2,000, yet today it carries less than than half, with 80% of its ridership already used a bus to get to the light-metro. This is an ominous statistic.

    Malcolm J.

    May 31, 2008 at 6:53 am

  5. Malcolm, how do you manage to turn everything into a discussion about LRT? You’re a one-trick pony and it creates a lot of noise between you and your point.

    As for the Patullo, they should just make it a 3-lane counterflow and add a grade-separated cycle lane.

    At some point it will be unfit for cars and can become an all-bike bridge!


    June 9, 2008 at 11:26 pm

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