New Westminster Residents affected by the closure of the Pattullo Bridge last January will no doubt know what is coming as Translink closed the bridge again this season for a significant overhaul of the paved surfaces. Depending on where in the city you reside, festering traffic jams or placid car free streets resulted from the last bridge shut down, caused by a fire set by a transient, that spread to a wooden flex-brace structure. Areas around 20th st. and Queensborough had a nightmare on their hands while the downtown, uptown and parts of Sapperton found a traffic holiday in effect.
This time, it is far less dramatic and the closures are scheduled to allow daytime traffic a route across the Fraser River. The bridge will be closed from May 31 from 8 p.m. Fridays through 5 a.m. on Mondays and after the work week evening rush from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. While the Pattullo typically sees 80,000 commuters each day, the closures are designed to minimize the impact. No doubt Translink planners have learned from the chaos that resulted from the last event.
On a side note, I have heard the analogy, particularly from BC Green Candidate and NWEP leader Matthew Laird (who I respect) that traffic, like gas, expands to meet the vacuum. I think this is true but the analogy fails. Gas expands to meet a vacuum by becoming much less dense. If there is more space, the congestion is eliminated. In the case of a failed river crossing, the traffic volume must contract to meet the reduced space. This results in congestion, friction and a real city planning problem. I am one of those that reject the notion that building more roads leads to more cars. Zoning more bedrooms in areas with no transit coverage leads to more cars. More or better roads just leads to a given number of cars spending less time in traffic.
So, that aside, the reason for the bridge repair is a complete replacement of the paved bridge deck. A typical resurfacing can not take place as the last work done in 1980 included asbestos and now the whole depth of asphalt must be removed and replaced. Lets hope that while the workers are digging through the pavement mid-span they don’t come across a forgotten cemetery…