Is TransLink vision too narrow for new Pattullo Bridge?

TransLink has proposed replacing the 75-year-old Pattullo Bridge with one designed to last 100 years. Unfortunately, after attending their open house in New Westminster last Feb, I walked away feeling that they had missed a crucial opportunity.

Pattullo Bridge. Photo: Pat Johnstone
Pattullo Bridge. Photo: Pat Johnstone

TransLink has proposed replacing the 75-year-old Pattullo Bridge with one designed to last 100 years. Unfortunately, after attending their open house in New Westminster last Feb, I walked away feeling that they had missed a crucial opportunity.

First, I did not see how TransLink’s own established 2040 vision to reduce emissions fits into their plans for an expanded Pattullo bridge. Their diagrams excluded any noticeable collaboration with other planners about provincial, municipal and federal roads. Also, I did not see any evidence that TransLink planners were encouraged to investigate other ways of efficiently and affordably moving people and goods that are already in use or being developed around the world. It seems by focusing on bridge placement, they failed to create a broad and visionary linked transportation network for the entire region—that includes not just planning with municipalities and the province, but also the ports and railroads about the important challenges we face in evolving our transportation and energy systems.

When I asked a TransLink planner if the models for future traffic volumes included the increasing costs of oil and gas as a factor, he regretted that they had not.

I understand that the end of cheap petroleum can change our economy. If we do not start to transition soon, even a temporary economic downturn can affect tax revenues available for large projects. I believe that no time is more important than now for clarity, collaboration and constant citizen participation. So before assigning today’s precious tax dollars to another expensive new bridge across the Fraser River, there is an urgency to get it right. And that got me wondering…

…how can we think outside the box that can constrain consultants and civil servants who are, without a doubt, restricted by a particular mandate that has been set out for them?

When thinking about transportation, we all need to develop our visionary capacity so that every project goes beyond short-term local issues. We have to learn to be visionaries and remember that citizens’ ideas about transportation are crucial.

Questions for us:

1.) During your travels, what kinds of low-emission transportation, for people or goods, have you seen that could be considered for the Vancouver region?

2.) When a lot of us are over 70 years old, what kind of transportation do you think we can rely upon for our daily needs?

Questions for planners:

3) When the Port Mann Bridge becomes tolled and cars and trucks divert to the un-tolled Pattullo Bridge, what are the projected impacts of pollution, traffic congestion, and bridge safety?

4) If tolling has undermined the reasoning behind expanding the Port Mann Bridge, is focusing on building bigger bridges going to solve our transportation issues with our best future in mind?

5) What ideas can be put into place, now and into the future, to avoid increased traffic flow through New Westminster’s 3 main corridors—McBride to 10th Ave., Royal Ave. to Stewardson Way, and East Columbia to Brunette?

6) As fuel prices continue to rise, what effect will that factor have on car and truck use on the Pattullo Bridge?

7) Since types of transportation and location of corridors determine the location of new development, what network is envisioned for guiding density for the next 100 years?

8) How can we protect our current green zones (parks, ecological reserves, forests, bog lands, tree farms, Agricultural Land Reserve and non-ALR agricultural use, etc.) as we accommodate changes over the next 100 years?

9) How does our region need to plan for the projected impact of Climate Change?

When it comes to the Pattullo Bridge, I am concerned that TransLink’s vision is too narrow. After all, road designers and bridge builders, when asked to address a problem, will always try to solve it by designing more roads and building more bridges. The result is that we, the users and funders, will not get what we need for our rapidly changing future.

Fortunately, the City wants the people of New Westminster to have a stronger voice in the TransLink bridge discussions, and you can help them have it by attending New Westminster’s open houses on The Master Transportation Plan on Thurs, May 3 at Century House from 2-4pm and the Justice Institute from 6-9pm. Even if you don’t have an opinion yet, your presence is important to inspire discussion in the region and build our shared vision.

Virginia Ayers

Virginia Ayers is a really valued member of the Tenth to the Fraser community. Interested in joining our pool of writers? Please see these submission guidelines.


  1. I’ve been unable to attend any of the recents meetings to discuss these issues, so thanks for reporting in here.

    I have all kinds of sci-fi solutions to the traffic/fossil fuel dependence/poor access from one community to another issues that include multiple underground tunnels for rapid transit, both for people, and for goods. But, realistically speaking, I think one of the first places to start is to increase services across the river as it stands now, and put some advertising into a campaign that lets commuters know that they can actually rely upon public transit at all times of day. This includes after peak hours.

    When I last investigated this, there were four bus routes that actually cross the Fraser. One (301) doesn’t stop at the SkyTrain. Two others (388 and 321) are limited service. A fourth is the stalwart 340, the only bus route that crosses the river to Delta/Surrey on any kind of regular schedule. This is appalling. No wonder the bridges are choked with traffic. No wonder people in the suburbs, a ballooning portion of the population of the Lower Mainland, are staying in their cars. I had to buy a car because services are so patchy across the river.

    I think like anything else, we have to start with what we have. But, since TransLink has actually cut services in New West last year, this area being the hub of transit to every place else in this region, it looks pretty grim. As has been expressed by others here on TttF before, TransLink has to establish a rigid standard of service, and make sure that everyone in this region knows that public transit can actually be counted upon.

  2. It's worse, Rob, because TransLink has now also cut the proposed RapidBus service to coincide withe Port Mann expansion. Drivers South of the River get 6 lanes of Golden Ears, 5 more lanes of Port Mann, and an unknown number of new Pattullo lanes, Transit users get hourly service on a couple of busses, and the Skytrain that penetrates a couple of Kilometres into Surrey, is packed to the gills, and shuts down for 6 hours a day.

    If we complain about service, TransLink claims poverty, while at the same time setting up plans to build a billion Dollar bridge no-one needs and New West doesn't want.

    Hope to see you on the 3rd of May. The City needs people to speak up on this.

  3. I was there too and felt the same. Let's start talking and propose alternatives. A Very narrow view of the Bridge, without even considering the real issues was given or allowed to be discussed.
    Trucks and the population were TOTALLY different and Highway 1/Highway 99/99A were NOT built when the Patullo was designed and built. The transport needs, population distribution and transit needs/systems have completely changed, so we cannot build another Bigger Patullo with the same feeders and connectors that were in place for the completely different time and region of 80 years ago.
    Highway 1 and Port Mann will handle Canadian Trucks. A Central (North/South) Truckway between the Border/Fraser Port/Downtown Vancouver needs to be fully developed like the South Fraser Perimeter Road FOR TRUCKS, with proper enhanced car access to 99 and ONE DIRECT AND CENTRAL dedicated roadway on the North Side of the river, not a bunch of small city roadways overbuilt and mixed together through New West and Burnaby.

    Make something that Expands the Tunnel or links Alex Fraser to a connector that is built in and around industrial areas of Burnaby/East Van., not thrown together through a series of small residential and commercial city roadways in New West/Burnaby.

  4. The one question that really needs to be asked is why not just upgrade the existing Pattullo Bridge? Is there anything wrong with it that could not be fixed for $200 million or so (1/5th the estimated cost of a new bridge)? The safety problems have been mainly resolved by closing the center two lanes at night.

    TransLink's proposal for a new six-lane bridge is a very expensive way to add two extra lanes.
    My recent post Mother Earth Day events and actions

  5. It is all an academic exercise. As gas prices creep up motorists are really feeling the pinch. As we have seen the only way to bring gasoline prices back down is to collapse the economy in order to stifle demand. We are rapidly coming to the end of the oil age but politicians, planners and people don't have the courage to admit it.

  6. Another less than stellar attempt at transportation planning by TransLink. I'm beginning to agree with CCLR. McEvoy(sp?) in saying it's time for Metro to take over from Translink? We can thank past Transportation/Highways minister Kevin Falcon for sending Translink down this road to zero credibility and total disconnect with people living in the lower mainland communities. We should be very cautious about succumbing to the "greater need of the global economy" when it means we give up on protecting the environment and damages our everyday quality of life here on earth!

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