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

Patullo Bridge Replacement

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Improving safety and creating jobs

Province of BC picture on flickr

Premier Horgan announced today that the province is going to take over the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge.

I must admit that I was somewhat surprised, but on reflection I think Horgan’s announcement of the removal of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges left him nowhere else to go. The only way that Translink could have built the bridge is through the previous government’s preferred method of user pay through a P3 agreement.

The Pattullo Bridge replacement project will be delivered solely by the Province. The project includes a new Pattullo Bridge that will be located upstream of the existing one, network connections in Surrey and New Westminster, and the removal of the existing bridge. The new Pattullo Bridge will be owned, operated and maintained by the Government of British Columbia.

That seems to me to be the clearest possible repudiation. I wonder if it also presages other possible changes in future. There was very little logic in the choices of the infrastructure downloaded from the province – other than avoiding anticipated future expenditures. The Knight Street Bridge carries a provincial highway (Highway 91) but needed urgent attention to improve its seismic stability.  The Westham Island Bridge is a purely local affair within Delta and doesn’t even rate a mention as part of the Major Road Network. The Annacis Island bridge does connect Delta and New Westminster, but is also not on the MRN, carries the Southern Railway of BC, and remained a provincial responsibility. And then there’s the Lion’s Gate bridge which also remained provincial. There were no provincial highways within the City of Vancouver to be downloaded, but a rationale for payments from the MRN was one of the ways that George Puil persuaded his colleagues on council to sign up for Translink.

Of course it is a reasonable way to proceed with the aged and decrepit bridge, but I do wonder what it says about the only regional, multimodal transportation authority. I always felt that the MRN was a way to redirect funds from transit to road building. That was also the case with the Golden Ears, which was never really needed, as Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows were outside of the Growth Concentration Area. Though arguably the decision to introduce West Coast Express through those communities was a stimulus to suburban sprawl. The use of Translink funds to the now defunct bridge tolling company was indeed detrimental to transit: it diverted funds to shareholders that ought to have been spent on transit operations and maintenance.

I have also seen more than once the argument that “balanced” transportation is not what it is needed in urban areas. We need to address decades of underfunding and neglect that motordom has inflicted on transit, walking and cycling infrastructure.

Let it be noted that separated and protected walking and cycling paths are promised for both sides of the new bridge which will only have four general purpose traffic lanes. Good.

This announcement does make things easier for the Mayors’ Council to arrive at an agreement on future transit expansion in the region, since they no longer have to carry their share of the $1.377-billion bridge. But there still exists a significant gap between what the province and federal governments have committed for transit expansion and what has to be funded from local sources. And that won’t be coming from bridge tolls.

POSTSCRIPT

The Executive Director of TransLink Mayors’ Council Mike Buda tweeted the following Point of Clarification: the transfer of Pattullo Bridge ownership to the province will not affect the $70M regional funding gap since the 10-Year Vision assumed toll revenue to pay for it.

AND NOW (February 18)
Rob Shaw in the Vancouver Sun sheds some light on what’s next

Postmedia reporter Jennifer Saltman reported last week the Horgan administration and mayors are close to a deal on phase 2 of the 10-year transit plan, which would include the Broadway subway line and rapid transit to Surrey. Horgan has already increased the province’s share from 33 per cent to 40 per cent. The federal government is in for 40 per cent. That left TransLink with a $60 million to $70 million annual shortfall to fund.

Here, too, the Horgan government is riding to the rescue. It is negotiating to give TransLink approval of one or more new funding sources — including possibly the carbon tax, gas tax or a vehicle levy — to cover up to $40 million of that shortfall. There’s also an idea floating around that the province could take over the Golden Ears Bridge, freeing up TransLink from its $40 million a year in bridge debt repayment that it could then funnel towards its share of phase 2.

The rest of TransLink’s funding gap could be paid with relatively small increases to property taxes or transit fares. A good deal if the mayors can get it, especially during a municipal election year. All this, the Pattullo, and potentially more, courtesy of the Horgan government.

I am also going to add this thread of tweets from Bowinn Ma – who you should follow on Twitter too!

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I have to say that this is the best Parliamentary Secretary for TransLink I have ever come across!

Artist rendering of bike and pedestrian lanes on the new Pattullo Bridge

A picture recently added by the Ministry to their flickr photostream

Artist rendering of bike and pedestrian lanes on the new Pattullo Bridge

A NEW Pattullo Bridge, located upstream from the existing bridge has been announced. The bridge will be four-lanes wide with walking and cycling lanes, separated from traffic, on both sides. Construction is scheduled to start summer 2019 and open to traffic in 2023.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 16, 2018 at 11:11 am

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