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Richmond weighs merits of Pattullo plan

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie says plans to replace the Pattullo Bridge are similar to those of the Massey tunnel, as both are being planned without a solution for the region
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie says plans to replace the Pattullo Bridge are similar to those of the Massey tunnel, as both are being planned without a solution for the region's traffic woes.
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A campaign by New Westminster to gain support for its Pattullo Bridge replacement plan came to Richmond Monday, and civic politicians here couldn't help but draw parallels to the George Massey Tunnel.

Richmond's eastern neighbour favours a proposal to replace the aging Pattullo with a $850-million four-lane bridge that's tolled—to help control traffic volumes—while Surrey favours a more costly six-lane structure.

"The free alternative has become one of our major major problems," said New Westminster Coun. Bill Harper in a presentation to Richmond council. "We, as a city, have decided to go with the four-lane option."

Harper said trucks and cars are heading to the 76-year-old Pattullo in droves to avoid tolls on the new Port Mann Bridge, adding to the gridlock in New Westminster. A six-lane span would further increase traffic, he argued, while a smaller, tolled structure would reduce it.

Richmond council referred the matter to staff, and decided to ask Surrey to make its case before offering any support.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie said the Pattullo project is much like the province's plan to replace the Massey tunnel—both are being planned without an "integrated transportation solution" for the region.

"If we're trying to solve the problem, shifting the traffic over to a different bridge isn't solving the problem. It may solve your problem, but it isn't solving the problem," he told Harper. "We want people to make a mode shift to rapid transit or to public transportation."

The province is drafting plans to replace the tunnel with a bridge as wide as 10 lanes. Ministry officials say the tunnel has 10 to 15 years of useful life remaining, and construction on a new span could start as early as 2017.

But Brodie said until more affordable housing is created in city centres and more people use public transportation, all that will be achieved is building more infrastructure without solving the problem.

"I think in a lot of ways we're chasing our tail here. We're creating more lanes of bridge, so that means more people are chasing affordable housing in the outskirts and making public transportation simply unaffordable to implement," he said. "We have to encourage a more thoughtful approach to what the region's transportation problems are."

Coun. Harold Steves said if more businesses accepted late-night deliveries, congestion would be alleviated and existing spans could be rehabilitated—freeing up money for public transit.

Said Steves: "Seems to me if they rehabilitated the Pattullo Bridge, and rehabilitated the tunnel, you could justify tolls on both of them and have a reduction of traffic going through the tunnel—the same as you're going to get a reduction in traffic going across the Pattullo Bridge. We'd have money from both projects for (light rail transit) and the problem is solved."

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