New Westminster politicians were caught “flat-footed” by Surrey council’s assertion the Royal City has cancelled consultations on replacing the Pattullo Bridge.
Mayor Wayne Wright said there has been some miscommunication because the city has every intention of participating in the next round of joint public consultation with Surrey and TransLink on what to do with the 76-year-old structure in early 2014.
“If it is (cancelled) we don’t know about it,” said Wright on Wednesday. “That’s all baloney. We’re right in the midst of [the consultation].”
The city has fired off letters to Surrey and TransLink expressing surprise at the charge made by Surrey Coun. Barinder Rasode that New Westminster has pulled out of the consultation.
New West Coun. Jonathan Coté said Surrey is being disingenuous.
“That’s completely inaccurate and it’s disappointing the city is doing that,” said Coté. “I’m perplexed about why the City of Surrey is putting out misinformation.”
Earlier this year, the three organizations whittled 25 possible options down to six.
They include rehabilitating the Pattullo to be either a three-lane or to its current four-lane configuration, replacing it with a four-, five-, or six-lane structure, or building a four-lane bridge connecting Surrey to the Coquitlam and the northeast sector where New Westminster believes most of the truck traffic on the Pattullo is headed.
The latter option would also include rehabbing the Pattullo to three lanes and an expanded pedestrian and cyclist lane.
It’s the option New Westminster likes because replacing the Pattullo, especially to six-lanes as Surrey would prefer, would ratchet up the volume of traffic on the Royal City’s already heavily congested streets.
“It makes common sense,” said Wright of the Coquitlam connection. “The only problem with it is it’s more costly than the others.”
Replacing the Pattullo would be in the $1-billion range depending on how many lanes it has. Rehabilitation of it has been estimated at about $300 million.
Surrey is worried if TransLink is forced to fix the bridge before a decision is made because of New Westminster’s stubbornness an opportunity to build a proper crossing will have been lost.
“It’s unfortunate,” Rasode told Black Press. “We’ve been engaged in a process for so many years on community consultation and exploring options. And our planning has always revolved around a six-lane Pattullo expansion.”
But Wright said if the Surrey-to-Coquitlam connection were to get the go-ahead, any rehab TransLink is forced to do while a decision is made will not have been wasted.
The mayor added the option would have a positive effect economically to the region, and the Pattullo would be retained.
“It’s so much money we have to spend, we’ve got to get it right,” said Wright.
“I can’t see people not supporting it. But that has to be proven.”
He took exception to another Surrey councillor reportedly saying instead of delaying and filibustering to the end New Westminster needs to give its head a shake for opposing the replacement on principle.
“We are giving our head a shake. We’re shaking it for the people (of New Westminster) to have a say,” said Wright.
– with file from Kevin Diakiw