June 6th Pattullo Bridge Forum attracts community attention

How can we re-imagine the Pattullo Bridge as others have the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto?

Cross-posted from CityCaucus with thanks to Daniel Fontaine:

She’s an aging piece of infrastructure linking New Westminster and Surrey. After years of neglect, her bridge railings are crumbling apart and a number of detractors would like her dismantled and hauled away to the dump. Of course by now you probably realize I’m referring to the 75 year old Pattullo Bridge that’s slated to be decomissioned in a few years in order to make way for a new six-lane tolled crossing.

On June 6th at 7 pm I am co-hosting an event that hopes to give this historic piece of Metro Vancouver a new lease on life. Fellow resident Keith Mackenzie and I are inviting local residents to attend a public forum to discuss what else can be done with the bridge besides tearing it apart. So far our forum has garnered some significant media interest. First off the mark was columnist Jon Ferry from The Province. He writes:

There is another option, though. And that’s to go ahead and build a new six-lane bridge, but keep the old one as a people-friendly link to Surrey for cyclists and pedestrians.

Indeed, New Westminster community activist Daniel Fontaine and a friend have invited two SFU urban planning experts and a city transportation engineer to a June 6 public forum to discuss that and other ideas.

Fontaine said Thursday that everyone seems to be assuming the 75-year-old bridge will simply be taken down, like the soon-to-bereplaced Port Mann Bridge a few kilometres upstream. But he’d like to see whether the arch-shaped Pattullo, with its stunning views, can’t be turned into something special.

“I’ve travelled quite a bit and I’ve seen what other cities have done with bridges,” he told me. “They’ve put restaurants on them, they’ve put pedestrian bikepaths. I mean, they’ve done really cool things with their public spaces.”

I agree. There’s no reason why, if bike-mad Lower Mainland politicians, planners, professors rid themselves of their virulent anti-car ideology, they can’t make life better for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists alike across our region.

But I think that, to avoid conflicts, physically separated bikeways and other pathways are key.

Along with La Perla Ballroom24 Hours Vancouver is a sponsor of the event. On Thursday they did an excellent 2 page spread providing the public with an in depth look at what other cities have done with their old pieces of infrastructure. Here is an excerpt:

One question has yet to be considered, however: What can we do with the existing bridge, short of demolishing it?

The new community forum, which is open to everyone, will touch on that. SFU urban design experts Gordon Price and Anthony Perl, as well as New Westminster transportation engineer Jerry Behl, will present.

Bridges have been or are being repurposed and turned into green, pedestrian-only spaces all around the world, such as Paris’ Promenade Plantée, New York City’s High Line Park and Philadelphia’s famous Reading Viaduct. Similar projects have been suggested for Washington D.C.’s old 11th Street Bridge, and even the old Port Mann crossing upstream from the Pattullo, an “audacious idea”, writes Price in his blog, Price Tags.

“That would be spectacular,” Price added about the Port Mann park concept, quietly floated by Gaetan Royer, a manager at Metro Vancouver. “I love the idea. It’s just so audacious and jaw-dropping to think of what the possibilities might be.”

In today’s Royal City Record, reporter Theresa McManus wrote an excellent story about the upcoming forum. She states:

Fontaine believes there are a lot of potential uses for the bridge if it’s repurposed or adapted, but it would require harnessing the creativity of the private sector. He said people should think out of the box about the bridge’s potential and view it as prime real estate in Greater Vancouver.

“It is something that could really generate a lot of cool ideas,” he said. “It doesn’t necessary require a lot of public dollars.”

Before the public could offer input about the fate of the Port Mann Bridge, Fontaine said a decision was made to tear it down when the new crossing was complete. He doesn’t want to see a similar decision made around the Pattullo Bridge without giving the public a chance to provide input.

“Let’s do it early on,” Fontaine said. “It’s a good piece of infrastructure that could potentially be saved.”

I also want to give a big shout out to the Bill Good Show for inviting both Gord Price and myself to the studio on Thursday to talk about the forum. There were some great callers and the segment was a lot of fun.

If you want to attend the event, or know someone who might be interested, here are the details:

Date: Wednesday, June 6

Time: 7-9 pm

Location: La Perla Ballroom – River Market at Westminster Quay (near New Westminster SkyTrain station). There is plenty of parking onsite.

Guest speakers:

Gord Price, Director, The City Program, SFU

Anthony Perl, Simon Fraser University

Jerry Behl, Transportation Engineer, City of New Westminster

TransLink (they were invited, but declined our invitation)

Here is the link on Facebook and the special website set up for the event. If you want to email us for more information, contact PattulloBridge@gmail.com.

We also plan to use PlaceSpeak to further engage the community on this topic after Wednesday…stay tuned for more information on this new development. Hope you can make it out to the event.


The Pattullo Bridge – and what we can do with it – has been a hot topic in the Lower Mainland and particularly New Westminster lately. New Westminster itself, long a central hub of transportation for the entire region thanks to its geographically central location, stands to be impacted hugely by whatever happens with the Pattullo.

In addition to the community forum that Daniel Fontaine and myself are holding on Thursday, June 6 at the River Market in the New Westminster Quay, there has been a lot of noise over the bridge – and not all of that comes from the 18-wheeler semis that rumble over the concrete on a minute-by-minute basis.

For instance:

New Westminster school trustees David Phelan and Jonina Campbell have officially stated their opposition to TransLink’s proposed six-lane replacement in a letter to the New Westminster News Leader May 10, quoting directly from the New Westminster Children’s Charter that “to lead active and healthy lives all children need to live in safe and livable neighbourhoods and that all children need their community to maintain a natural, healthy and sustainable environment”.

Christina Myers of the Royal City Record came clean with a confessional that she is a regular user of the Pattullo Bridge, and urges New Westers to rethink their hasty judgement of the proposed replacement of the bridge. The bridge is useful to both New Westminster and the region, and like it or not, New West is indeed a central hub of transportation in the region. Lose the bridge, and you lose the visitors to the city. Myers, herself, cites numerous examples in her confessional – she meets people after work in downtown New West, she visits Army & Navy on a regular basis, and is a regular purchaser of bridesmaid dresses on Columbia Street. In short, people like Ms. Myers bring money into the city.

In fact, many businesses in Surrey are alarmed at New Westminster residents’ staunch opposition to having any kind of a bridge over the Fraser heading right into Sapperton. They’re urging residents to reconsider, saying that the Pattullo offers a key trade route that can’t be simply thrown away.

Another New Westminster school trustee, Casey Cook, reposted an article from the Vancouver Sun on residents tired of the congestion on the city’s roads and the continuing efforts – via forums and the like – to relieve the city of the rampaging hordes of four-wheelers through the main arteries of the city. Sounds familiar? If you didn’t know it was published sixteen years ago, you wouldn’t know it from the stark similarities to today’s ongoing debate.

This brings a few thoughts to mind. Does this mean that nothing ever changes in New Westminster?

Not necessarily.

We’re facing a very unique situation in the city where people no longer simply live in clusters of neighbourhoods in Queens Park, Sapperton and the West End. We’re now in an era where building condos along Main Street-type corridors such as Columbia Street and 6th Street has become the norm, and more and more young people are moving here from Vancouver, driven out by Lotus Land’s astronomical real estate prices.

With these young people and new condos, we’re bound to see a lot more children – in fact, two new schools were approved for the city at a time where the city of Vancouver is struggling to keep its own schools alive – and a lot more foot traffic on the streets. We’re also seeing the new pier park opening very, very soon, and Plaza 88 and a revitalized River Market contributing to a huge increase in pedestrian traffic. The opposition to the six-lane Pattullo by Phelan and Campbell is a testament to this concern.

Where there’s foot traffic, there’s bound to be opposition to the idea of Royal Avenue, Columbia Street, 6th Avenue and Front Street continuing to be major arteries – hell, practically highways – for people commuting through.

That’s very fair. It may be worthwhile to consider other options on what we can do with the existing Pattullo. It doesn’t necessarily have to be torn down and a new bridge put in place. That’s what the community forum on June 6 is all about – we want to encourage dialogue on what we can do with something that already exists and is still in fairly decent shape. The Pattullo isn’t by any means in tip-top shape, but it’s no lemon either.

What do you think? We’re open to any and all ideas. Let’s start thinking. And talking.

Looks like there’s a lot of opposition to TransLink’s proposal to build a new six-lane bridge to replace the aging Pattullo. It’s true that oppositional forces are louder than supportive forces, but still, it’s a statement.

For the record, TransLink’s initial proposal consisted of two separate designs – both virtually identical and different only in that one is slightly upstream and the other slightly downstream from the existing bridge.

One may even suggest that this is a smaller version of what’s happening over at the Port Mann crossing – a larger super-bridge being built right next to the old bridge. And New Westers don’t like that very much.

The City of New Westminster has made it clear to TransLink that they’re also not happy with the transit body’s consultation process thus far, and held an information session of their own on May 3. If that session was any indication of the larger sentiments of New Westminster residents, it’s clear that people here would happily see the existing Pattullo fall into the Fraser and be washed away, and no new bridge to take its place.

A final decision on the bridge is likely a long time away, but according to the Royal City Record, TransLink has held off on holding stakeholder meetings on the Pattullo until June, after it’s had a chance to review the results of New Westminster’s info sessions.

Another opportunity arises as well. A community forum on what we can do with the existing Pattullo Bridge – short of demolishing it – will take place at the River Market on June 6. Two SFU urban visionaries, Gordon Price and Anthony Perl, will be there, as well as a transportation engineer from the City of New Westminster, Jerry Behl. An invitation to TransLink to take part in this was respectfully declined, but TransLink representative Drew Snider did express his sincere interest in the results of that forum.

We’d like to see you there at the forum, especially if you have some creative ideas on what we can do with the existing bridge. And we’re looking at every possibility, within reason. More information here and at our Facebook page.

The “New” Westminster is pleased to announce a community event: The Pattullo Bridge: Bridging the Old with the New.

Much discussion has been spent on planning for the new Pattullo Bridge, but one question remains: What can we do with the existing Pattullo Bridge?

If you’ve crossed the ageing bridge at any point over the last decade, you’ve probably asked yourself what is going to happen with this vital piece of public infrastructure in the future. It’s a good question that has taken on added importance now that TransLink and the City of New Westminster have started their public consultation about its future.

While most of the discussion has been about what the new bridge will look like and where it will be placed, there has been little talk about what to do with the current structure built in 1937.

Will it simply be torn down like the old Port Mann bridge as part of a renewal process? Or will it serve a new purpose as a carbon-friendly pedestrian/bike way linking downtown New Westminster to Surrey?

To address this important question, we are holding a community forum in New Westminster on June 6 at 7 p.m. Two urban planning visionaries from SFU and a transportation engineer from New Westminster City Hall will present their views in a non-partisan setting, after which the floor will be opened for a town hall-style discussion involving the public.

Those presenting are:

Gordon Price – Director, SFU City Program

Price currently leads The City Program at Simon Fraser University. He is a regular lecturer on transportation and land use for the City of Portland, Oregon and Portland State University. He has written several extensive essays on Vancouver and transportation issues – The Deceptive City and A Local Politician’s Guide to Urban Transportation – and has been published in numerous journals, including those of the American and Canadian Planning Associations. Price writes a monthly column for Business in Vancouver on civic issues, and conducts tours and seminars on the development of Vancouver. He also publishes an electronic magazine on urban issues, with a focus on Vancouver, called Price Tags. Price has held a number of elected positions. He was a six-term Vancouver City Councillor, and a past Metro Vancouver Board Director. He was appointed to the first board of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority (now Translink) in 1999. He currently its on the Boards of the Sightline Institute and the International Centre for Sustainable Cities.

Anthony Perl – Director, SFU Urban Studies

Perl’s current research crosses disciplinary and national boundaries to explore the policy decisions that affect transportation, cities and the environment.

He has also analyzed: institutional dynamics of public policy; the role of policy consultants, and; the relationship between energy policy and climate change. His findings have been published in numerous political science, environmental, urban and transportation journals. He has received awards for outstanding papers presented at the World Conference on Transport Research and the Canadian Transportation Research Forum.

Jerry Behl  – Transportation Engineer, City of New Westminster

With over 20 years of experience in road design, traffic engineering and transportation planning, Jerry has worked in England for Transport London, New Zealand with Hamilton City Council and, more recently, with the City of Kelowna as the Manager of Transportation of Mobility.

He has a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the University of Westminster (London, England) and is a member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geologists BC.

TransLink – We asked if they wanted to participate, but they respectfully declined. They have asked that we keep them informed regarding the outcomes of our dialogue.

Event Details:

Date and time: June 6, 2012 from 7-9 p.m.

Location: La Perla Ballroom, on the upper floor at the River Market (across the railroad tracks from New Westminster SkyTrain Station).

Information: Email PattulloBridge@gmail.com and/or visit our Facebook page under “Pattullo Bridge Community Forum”.

Livestream: NewWest.TV will livestream the event for those who can’t make it in person.

This event is considered non-partisan and is simply being organized two New Westminster residents hoping public officials make a community-based decision when it comes to the future of the current Pattullo Bridge.

Hopefully you can mark your calendar, spread the word and plan to be there to participate in the dialogue.

We also want to thank our speakers for attending as well as La Perla Ballroom and 24 hours Vancouver for sponsoring this important event. Hope to see you there!

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