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May 19,2011 Vancouver Sun


TransLink is pushing ahead with its initial plan to build a new $1-billion six-lane bridge to replace the aging Pattullo Bridge after a review of potential alternatives found refurbishing the bridge wasn’t feasible.

TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said the review, by an independent engineer, found if it was refurbished, the 73-year-old bridge would have to be scaled back from its current four lanes to three because it can’t safely be widened.

A previous study also found it would cost as much to rehabilitate the Pattullo to last another 50 years as it would to build a new bridge to last 100 years.

"To improve the safety of the bridge and make operations more efficient, we would have to reduce the capacity on the bridge to three lanes," he said. "So we would spend more than $2 million to handle less traffic. It’s a negative business case."

TransLink had considered the option — along with building a four-lane bridge instead of six — after former transportation minister Shirley Bond suggested TransLink investigate cheaper, toll-free alternative for the Pattullo.

If the Pattullo were tolled, drivers seeking a toll-free route would have no choice but to take the Alex Fraser. Motorists must already pay to use the Golden Ears Bridge and the new Port Mann Bridge will be tolled.

Hardie said TransLink may still decide to go with a four-lane option but is proceeding with the initial plan for six lanes. There’s been no decision yet if the bridge will be tolled.

"If we can find another way to pay for it, it will not be tolled," he said.

The bridge plan includes entrance and exit lanes to the north and south Fraser Perimeter roads.

The Pattullo is already operating at capacity, recording 76,000 crossings every day, with about 20 per cent of the traffic passing over the Fraser River. Traffic is often backed up to Surrey’s Johnston Hill.

Over the years, its narrow lanes and sharply curved approaches have been blamed for numerous head-on collisions.

TransLink hopes to have a new bridge in place by 2020.

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