So as to not bury the lede, and to allow for great summarizing and generalization, I am going to list the options provided by TransLink in the consultation documents grouped into four categories based completely on my own (as informed as possible) opinions: Optimal, Sub-optimal, Bad, and Untenable.
Optimal: If I was voting, this is where I would cast my ballot.
Fixing the bridge we have seems the simplest, most cost-effective solution, and it can easily be financed through a moderate toll, similar to the cost premium for crossing a “Zone” on any other TransLink infrastructure.
These options (and I prefer the three-lane counterflow to provide better comfort and lower wear for road users) meets all of the listed objectives. It fixes the core problem (an old bridge
) while respecting local and regional planning goals and existing transportation networks. Meanwhile, the historically significant structure can be preserved to grace our skyline for another generation, and safety for cyclists and pedestrians can be improved.
The bonus in these “difficult economic times” is that this is the least expensive option, and can easily be funded through modest tolls. Back-of-the-envelope estimates suggest that the $3 tolls of Port Mann are not necessary here, but a toll pegged to the zone-crossing premium of the adjacent SkyBridge (currently $1.25) would be more than enough to cover the repair and maintenance costs. The toll would be enough to disincentivize avoiding the Port Mann, but not so high as to be a burden to regular users. It may even help encourage the use of the alternative next door.
Sub-optimal: Not ideal, but I could probably live with it and not whinge too much.
Options #2, #3, #19.
|All pictures zoom if ya click them!
All of these options keep the Pattullo standing, and that satisfies one of my major criteria: protecting the heritage of the structure. Each is less perfect than the optimal choices in different ways.
The first two don’t seem to provide any real benefit over the Optimal choices. I cannot imagine this region spending $300 Million on a single piece of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure these days, when a bike lane in Vancouver that costs less to install than a single left-turn bay for cars on an adjacent street is used as evidence for a “war on cars”. This is politically untenable, and probably just disruptive enough to transportation systems already established that it doesn’t really serve the purpose. There is nothing a 2-lane Pattullo provides us better than three-lane Pattullo, so these are just lesser versions of a good idea.
Option #19 has been the source of much talk, speculation, dreaming, and idolation since the consultations began. I have never been a big fan of the Sapperton Bar crossing (for reasons outlined below), but have to admit, when I saw this option presented by TransLink, I started to reconsider, mostly because the speculated cost of $1.5 Billion is much, much lower than I anticipated for a crossing on one of the wider parts of the River. This makes the cost recoverable from tolls on the two bridges (the new one, and the refurbished 2-lane Pattullo).
The obvious upside is that his option may facilitate the closing of the Pattullo to trucks, and provide the most cost-effective solution to the problem that the “Stormont Solution” purports to solve: getting vehicles from Surrey to Highway 1 ASAP, at a fraction of the cost of a 4-km tunnel through New Westminster.
My problems with this option (besides suspicion around the projected cost) are built around the fear that this is really a “NIMBY” solution that, once again, adds to road capacity when that is not the problem we are trying to solve. Nothing in the problem set for the Pattullo supports building another bridge to the east. We also don’t know if the residents of Bridgeview or Coquitlam want this new Highway connection in their neighbourhoods. The connections on the north side are especially problematic- are we envisioning a road through the Brunette Industrial Area connecting at Braid (spanning the rail yard), or something over by the King Edward Overpass (which would be impossible to connect to Highway 1)? It was suggested that the projected cost of this option would only take the new bridge to United Boulevard, which is actually no-where, except a congested narrow 4-lane with access to Lee Valley.
Mark me down as intrigued, but not informed enough to actually feel positive about this one.
Bad: Just a bad idea, and hard to see how to make it good.
Options #1, #6, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #20.
The first option here – the removal of the bridge – is a bit of a dream for some in New Westminster, but I think fails to acknowledge both the importance of the established transportation networks, and the importance of the Pattullo as a heritage structure. I like the bridge on our skyline, I like crossing it on foot and on my bike and even, occasionally, by car. I would be sad to see it go.
Option #6 is for a new 4-lane bridge, which has the unique combination of making the situation no better than it is now traffic- and transportation-wise, but losing the heritage structure at a much higher cost than the refurbishment option. So not individually terrible; just a combination of so many sub-optimals that the sum is bad.
#14, #15, #16 and #20 all rely on the Sapperton Bar crossing being built, which is actually a pretty crappy idea. It takes the Surrey-Coquitlam version (with all of it’s uncertainties) and adds a road connecting to a tunnel under Sapperton – for no apparent reason or understanding of the neighbourhoods it is launching into – to presumably access a non-existent (and un-budgeted) Stormont connection, yet still doubles the cost. I cannot imagine why.
#17 is lesser than #19, for not much less cost, except that we no longer have a Pattullo at all. Meh. Meanwhile #18 has the same critical flaw as #2 in that no-one is going to spend something like $300 million to refurbish the Pattullo for bicycles and pedestrians only in MetroVancouver in 2013 when we cannot even scrape together a couple of million to fix the BC Parkway. Give me $300 Million for bike infrastructure, I can spend it much better than this.
Untenable: They just threw these in here to see if we were paying attention.
Options #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #21, #22, #23, #24, and #25.
The first three options bring progressively bigger bridges into the location of the Pattullo Bridge. It was these ideas that brought us all out to last year’s consultations, and no defensible case was made for them last year, which is why we are all here a year later reviewing better ideas. This idea has not improved with age.
The four sub-river tunnel options are dead on arrival. Without the “branch”, and with no specific idea about what happens along McBride, it provides no advantage over the bigger Bridge options, but at 2-3 times the cost. With the “branch” along Royal, the cost rises well over $4 Billion (an unlikely sum for TransLink to cobble together), all to move one inevitable traffic pinch point from the South end of McBride to the North end of McBride, and to increase the congestion on Stewardson. It is a road-builders dream that spends a lot of taxpayers money but makes worse most of the problems it claims to solve. I’ve said it before: tunnels are for trains, not cars and trucks.
#21 and #22 have all the bad parts of #14 through #20, but with increased traffic and cost.
The final 3 options are all related to a new crossing way over by “Tree Island” – a misnomer peninsula that currently hosts a steel wire factory and will soon be home to a TransLink bus parking facility – to connect Richmond to Burnaby. Richmond has been clear that they are opposed to this idea, and no-one at TransLink was really clear how this in any way related to the Pattullo Bridge – it surely does not replace any capacity needs at Pattullo, doesn’t directly address the “old bridge problem”, nor does it cross most of the Fraser River. This is so off topic, it is just a distraction not worth discussion.
That’s it folks, this is what we have to work with. You have another week or so to get your opinions to TransLink by going to this site. Just for the fun of it, you can also tell Surrey what you think by going to this site.