New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright says tolls on the Pattullo Bridge are the best way to reduce traffic from drivers seeking to avoid the tolls on the Port Mann Bridge.

The mayor says the Pattullo has always been a regional bridge and tolls will help keep it that way. Ever since full tolls were introduced on the new Port Mann Bridge, Wright says the Pattullo has become the alternative crossing.

He says the city supports a four-lane tolled replacement for the aging Pattullo Bridge, which he says would help reduce traffic "to where it should be" and provide a safer crossing.

Traffic on the Pattullo has jumped substantially since tolls were introduced on the Port Mann, according to Wright, and that's hurting local businesses and impacting the livability of the entire community.

Too soon to discuss tolling, says minister

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone says it is premature to discuss tolling the Pattullo Bridge — or whatever will soon replace it.

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What will be the toll of the tolls? A New Westminster city councillor says he expects congestion on his city's streets to worsen as Port Mann Bridge toll-avoiders shift more traffic than ever to the Pattullo Bridge starting Monday. (CBC)

"If it was to be tolled, that would seem to be contradictory to the provincial tolling policy, which does provide for a free alternative to new tolled structures," said Stone.

"There's also the issue of federal funding. The feds have tended to not invest in projects that have tolls on them."

Stone says he will wait for the Mayors' Transportation Plan, as well as a possible referendum on the issue, before seriously considering tolls.

Future of bridge still in question

The future of the bridge has been under discussion for years. TransLink says the aging bridge is unlikely to withstand a moderate earthquake or ship collision, does not meet current roadway guidelines for lane width, and lacks adequate sidewalks and barriers.

Last year, TransLink rolled out a number of options for the bridge.

  • Remove the bridge.
  • Rehabilitate the bridge for bikes and pedestrians only.
  • Rehabilitate it as a two-, three- or four-lane bridge.
  • Replacing it with a two-, four- or eight-lane bridge.
  • Replacing it with a four-lane tunnel.
  • Building a new crossing up to six-lanes, upriver at Sapperton Bar.
  • Building a new four-lane bridge downriver at Tree Island.

The bridge has also been the site of many deadly head-on collisions in recent years because there is no divider between its four narrow lanes.

TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis has said they're looking for a plan that offers the lowest cost, but also supports the rest of TransLink's plans in the region.

Jarvis says replacing the bridge could cost half a billion dollars more than some of the other alternatives. A final decision is expected this spring.