This is a guest post from Ken Wilkinson of the Friends of New Westminster Museum & Archives Society. Ken is a fifth generation New Westminster resident, whose family arrived in 1859 and have enjoyed the city ever since. He helps People with Disabilities enjoy their lives with direct support and as a writer and designer of education and employment programs. He also enjoys helping others throughout the community. He is a founding member of the newly established Friends of the New Westminster Museum and Archives Society (FNWMA), which is responsible for helping more people learn about the unique and vibrant history of our community and our province. He wants to find out what people know, want to learn and want to help, so wants peoples’ input. Until the FNWMA Society has a website, you can contact him at kenw10 (at) telus.net.
Translink recently announced a new bridge will be built in the next 5 years between New Westminster and Surrey, the third bridge across in the past 106 years.
The first “New Westminster Bridge” was opened by Premier Richard McBride on July 23, 1904. It was the first bridge across the Lower Fraser River, mainly for rail traffic but had a second, wood-planked deck above (mainly for horses and carts at the time) that shook horribly when trains passed underneath. It allowed for trains to link from the U.S. to Vancouver, and in 1911 created a great opportunity for B.C. Electric’s Interurban tram line to move people and freight from Chilliwack to Vancouver. This led to great economic growth for many years.
But the New Westminster Bridge was very inefficient for families who, by the 1930s, wanted to travel to the U.S. and up the Fraser Valley on their own schedule in cars. Premier T.D. “Duff” Patullo pushed hard for the bridge to be built by the province in New Westminster to create jobs during the depression and to stimulate growth.
The very modern and expensive ($4 million) bridge was opened on November 15, 1937 and named after the man who proudly spearheaded the project. Tolls were required for 15 years to pay for it, so it was often called the “Pay-a-Toll-o” bridge by unhappy New Westminster residents. It allowed for construction of the Pacific Highway to Blaine and helped encourage growth in Surrey and New Westminster.
73 years later the bridge is aging and has narrow lanes for trucks and cars, so soon it will be replaced by the 3rd road bridge, just upstream of the bridges that have survived well for the past 106 years.