Floor’s open for Pattullo talks

Posted: May 21, 2012 in Fraser River, Pattullo Bridge
Tags: , , , ,

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.

  1. afeltham says:

    Good summary of the perspectives.

    I’m surprised that there’s still people out there like Christina Myers who still think we can solve the traffic problems in New Westminster within any feasible budget or available pot of money. I’m surprised how glib these people can be with spending a $billion dollars of other people’s money without any evidence that it will make a minute of difference to their commute time. A 6 lane Pattullo Bridge will do nothing to solve the gridlock within the City; in fact it will make it worse.

    These people need not apologize for their past decisions about where to live and how to commute. I’m sure it made sense at the time. Its just that, due to factors beyond their control, the region has evolved in a way such that their commute has become more complicated and more congested. It turns out that people like to live in New Westminster and this has made it prohibitively expensive or impractical for roads to be expanded, not to mention that it has always been difficult and expensive to build roads in New West due to the geography. More over if this were a critical regional problem, you’d think that senior levels of government would be coming to the table with cash to fix the “regional problem”. But they’re not. It simply isn’t that important.

    Why can we not move on? Shouldn’t the debate be: given that we can’t solve the problem of traffic in New Westminster what else can we do to get people and goods moving through the region’s “hub” while not destroying the quality of life in New Westminster and other communities? Droning on about how to deal with the needs of through traffic has been going on for more than decade and has not produced any serious solutions. If there was a feasible solution, it would have been done by now.

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