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

Posts Tagged ‘Pattullo Bridge

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.


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

A Reasonable Approach

with 7 comments

On Wednesday this week I watched the CBC Evening News and heard New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright talking about the Patullo Bridge. Two things stuck in my mind. He thinks that tolls on the new bridge would be a good idea to limit the amount of traffic. And a cheaper bridge would free up some money to spend on more transit in Surrey.

Actually there was a lot more that the CBC did not cover. There is a 32 page report on the bridge that went to New Westminster council (that link downloads a pdf which is in two column format, that makes on line reading awkward and quoting tricky) and there is also a shorter Backgrounder – which is also a pdf which does not permit cut and paste at all. But that is where the title comes from

TransLink has identified the need to rehabilitate or replace the Pattullo Bridge in order to respond to risks related to its vulnerability in an earthquake, its structural integrity and the effect of river currents on its foundations.

Like all the bridges that the province downloaded to Translink. The Knight Street and the Canoe Pass bridge also were badly in need of rehabilitation. They were old and had been neglected. And when the big shake happens would almost certainly collapse. It was a cynical ploy. The region wanted control transit but the province wanted to get rid of some impending liabilities. So the deal to create what became Translink was that the region would get some more gas tax points (it was already getting 4c a litre for transit) but only f it took on some roads and bridges. So the transfer allowed some increase in transit service, but it also tied the authority’s hands. There would be a “balanced” approach. Translating that spin it meant more would be required for roads – and would be a priority – and there might be some left overs for transit.

I applaud the Mayor for recognizing what the rest of region seems to have difficulty acknowledging. Our problems are based on lack of accessibility brought on by over dependence on the automobile. That applies as much in Vancouver (the suburbs begin south of 12th Avenue) as in Langley. New Westminster is a bit different since it is small, compact and mostly developed before the automobile became the primary means of personal transportation. It also has five SkyTrain stations for its 66,000 people. And a great deal of through traffic on old narrow streets.

The Royal City Record agrees the approach is reasonable. But its editorial goes on to point out that reasonable and well thought out does not necessarily mean that is what gets built. While Christy Clark enjoys the photo opportunity of naming the new TBM for the Evergreen Line she does not actually want to see an increase in transit mode share. And that is what her other big announcement is going to stall – as Translink points out. The New Massey bridge is not going to help increase transit use. Surrey is not pleased with the idea of a tolled four lane Patullo and will continue to press for its preferred free six lane version. And given the impact of the widening of Highway 1, the opening of the South Fraser Perimeter Road and the chance that Vancouver will win the shoving match for rapid transit funding for its tunnel over their LRT one cannot really be surprised.

Of course, they are quite wrong in thinking that a six lane Patullo will actually help them. But then that is because no-one in this region seems to be able to grasp that traffic expands to fill the space available. No one has ever solved congestion by increasing road capacity. There are only two ways to cut traffic congestion – road pricing or economic decline. In fact I am not the only economist who has pointed out that traffic congestion is an indicator of economic success.

But to return to New Westminster. What the Mayor is pointing out is that cities are mainly places for people to live in. Not primarily places for cars to get through quickly. Indeed everything that has been done to “improve” traffic speed/flow has an adverse effect on every other aspect of life in cities. The introduction of the automobile has been decidedly deleterious to the quality of life in cities, and the most successful cities in recent years have been those that have been most effective in tackling that impact. Not because they focussed on traffic congestion but because they focussed on what makes cities work better for people. The common factor seen in all the current anti-transit, anti-bike, anti-Translink propaganda has been its uniquely narrow focus. It has been all about people who want to drive their own cars for all their own activities, no matter what that does to them and their communities. It is profoundly conservative in its focus in the sense of “there is nothing wrong with what we have been doing” perception. Like climate change denial, it actually gets stronger and louder in its denunciations of innovation the more that the demonstrable facts show them to wrong. And not just here either.

If you think that the real problems facing us are that gas prices are too high, that it takes too long to find a free parking space and that all government spending (except more prisons and newer war planes) is wasteful then everything I have written – or all of what Mayor Wright says – will fall on deaf ears. But if you think that we need to start rethinking how cities are organized and that reduction in car use is a good measure of success in that regard then a four lane tolled new Patullo actually seems a good idea. I cannot say however that I agree with his other suggestion of a another new bridge linking Surrey and Coquitlam. I think ten lanes ought to be quite enough.

I have cut and pasted some highlights below but I think if you are really interested you ought to read the full report – or at least the Backgrounder which I am unable to quote from

Problem Statement

The Pattullo Bridge may not survive a moderate earthquake or ship collision, the piers are at risk of being undermined by river scour and many bridge components have surpassed their useful lives.

Other Issues

When considering the best alternatives for the problem, it is an opportune time to establish the optimal roles for the crossing and also to address other issues with the current crossing, including:

  1. The Pattullo Bridge does not meet current roadway design guidelines, including for lane widths and curvature, potentially contributing to collisions.
  2. Pattullo Bridge facilities, such as sidewalks and barriers, and connections for pedestrians and cyclists, are inadequate and do not provide sufficient protection from traffic.
  3. During rush hours, travel demand on the roads leading to the Pattullo Bridge results in queuing and unreliable travel times for the movement of people, goods and services.
  4. Current traffic (including truck) volumes affect the liveability of adjacent communities due to air quality, noise and resulting health impacts, as well as due to neighbourhood traffic infiltration.


The preferred alternative will meet transportation, environmental and health objectives,


  1. Moves towards the regional goal that most trips will be by walking, cycling and transit.
  2. Minimizes single-occupant vehicle use and vehicle kilometres travelled.
  3. Minimizes emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and pollutants.
  4. Is capable of supporting neighbourhood liveability by minimizing and mitigating impacts, including during construction, and provides an aesthetically pleasing structure.
  5. Supports local and regional land use plans and economic development.
  6. Provides reliable access and predictable travel times for all modes, users, and for an appropriate level of goods movement.
  7. Provides a safe crossing for all modes, is structurally sound and meets current standards for seismic and ship impacts.
  8. Is cost-effective.

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The reality is that public money that is spent on the bridge will restrict the ability to fund other much needed projects such as the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system within Surrey. The City is supportive of reallocating capital cost saving from a rehabilitated 4-lane bridge project or a new 4-lane bridge project to the much needed rapid transit system in the City of Surrey.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 7, 2014 at 2:27 pm