TransLink has approved the construction of a new, tolled crossing to replace the 71-year-old Pattullo Bridge spanning the Fraser River between Surrey and New Westminster, B.C.
The mayors of the two Metro Vancouver municipalities said Thursday night they are concerned about who's going to pay for the bridge.
The TransLink board made the decision during a closed-door meeting Thursday afternoon. A consultant's report presented during the meeting recommends building a new bridge to connect the two cities rather than investing more money in the existing bridge.
"TransLink needs to proceed on the basis of a tolled bridge if it's going to be able to respond with the urgency required to address the problems created by the Pattullo," board chair Dale Parker said in a news release Thursday.
'As a municipal government, there's no way that we can take on that kind of cost.' — Surrey Mayor Dianne Watt
TransLink is the transportation authority of the B.C. southern coast. The nine members of the board of directors come from various professions such as business, engineering and academia.
The consultant's report by Delcan, an engineering, management and technology consulting firm, suggests TransLink could build the new bridge either 50 metres upstream or 50 metres downstream of the Pattullo.
TransLink will have to look at the costs and impacts on both sides of the river, as well as how the new bridge can integrate effectively with the road network, before a decision is made about where it will be built, TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast said in a news release.
"TransLink does not have in its existing plan right now funds to replace a bridge like this so we have to be able to create the funds to be able to do so," Prendergast told CBC News Thursday night.
The new bridge is expected to take 10 years to complete, TransLink said. The old bridge will be torn down once the new bridge becomes operational.
New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright said he hopes the federal government will offer financial help.
"We'll get some help from the province and maybe from the federal government and then TransLink [will have] some funding I'm sure it can put forward," Wright said Thursday night.
"As a municipal government, there's no way that we can take on that kind of cost," Surrey Mayor Dianne Watt said Thursday night.
NDP MLA and transportation critic Harry Bains said if the B.C. government allows a TransLink to build a toll bridge to replace the Pattullo, the ruling Liberals will be breaking a promise.
"[Transportation Minister Kevin] Falcon has promised to the people of this region that the Pattullo Bridge is a free option to the tolled Port Mann Bridge," Bains said.
Repaving of Pattullo scheduled for 2009
The Pattullo Bridge deck is scheduled to be repaved in the new year and overnight closures of two centre lanes will remain in effect. The closures were introduced as a safety measure in 2005 because of the number of fatal collisions that have occurred on the bridge, which has no barrier between oncoming traffic lanes.
TransLink had said earlier this week that repaving work planned for July and August had been postponed until next spring.
TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said on Wednesday that the Pattullo Bridge, which carries an average of 79,000 vehicles daily, is safe for commuters.
"It's an old bridge with narrow lanes. If people drive it according to those conditions, everyone gets across safely," Hardie said.