Fix it.

Not sure how you haven’t heard- but TransLink is back in New Westminster to talk about the Pattullo Bridge. Consultation meetings start this week, and go on for most of June. You really should think about attending one. Or more.

This got me thinking that it was this time last year that Pattullo Consultation Part 1 occurred. It was 13 months ago that I wrote this long Blog Post about how the Pattullo was showing signs of neglect. Short version: the Pattullo is an old steel structure, and like all old steel structures from the Eiffel Tower to my Honda, they will last nearly forever if properly maintained, but will turn to dust in a flash if neglected. In that post, I showed some pictures of the bridge, demonstrating that TransLink is leaning towards the dust-making approach to maintenance.

So it being a year on, I went by the Pattullo Bridge today to see if there was any sign of the alleged $3 Million a year TransLink once claimed they spent on maintaining the Pattullo. Just for fun, I tried, as best I could, to repeat the photos I took a year ago. So here are the before-and-after photos:

No change here. 
Pretty much the same rust
Paint continuing to peel
This catch basin still jammed, with some of the same debris!
I guess wheel-damaging potholes are a bigger priority than failing bridge structures
Admittedly, it looks like a couple of the more potentially tetanus-causing pillars had
their jagged metal sawed off, and a bit of new paint applied to them. 
It’s been a slow year for Plaque-taggers.
…and for those concerned, the plants in the trusswork are still doing fine!

I took a few more pictures this time, just for the fun of it:

There is still a healthy mix of rusted-through railings and pillars, even if a few have been painted.
Along with new potholes, this one demonstrating what happens when a catchbasin
is blocked for too long, and the water needs somewhere to go.

The point I want to make here is not that the bridge is rusty and unsafe; it is certainly rusty, but TransLink assures us it is safe (but ominously won’t be for long). The point is that TransLink is, for whatever reason, still failing to do the maintenance that might keep it safe.

The Pattullo is an historic structure, the most iconic structure on New Westminster’s skyline for 75 years. It is every bit as historically significant as its contemporaries at the First Narrows of Burrard Inlet and Sydney Harbour. Allowing this historic structure and vital transportation link to degrade to its current state is shameful, and an irresponsible way to manage public infrastructure. It is time to fix it.

That is the position I am taking into TransLink’s consultations, one that can be summed up in two words: “Fix it”

Fix it: We don’t want or need a new bridge, or a wider bridge, or more bridge or the bridge to be moved or removed. The bridge serves a purpose, and can continue to for the next generation, but it needs to be fixed.

Fix it: The bridge is iconic, historic, and an important part of the heritage of the City and the region. It must be preserved, protected, and celebrated.

Fix it: The bridge can serve its users by replacing the sidewalk with a lighter, wider structure (similar to the approach on the Queensborough), and by reducing the driving lanes to 3 with a central counter-flow, much like the Lions Gate.

Fix it: The bridge suffers (like most of TransLink’s infrastructure) from a profound lack of funding for a transportation authority in a rapidly-growing region. The funding model for TransLink needs to be fixed.

Fix it: Transit in Surrey is woefully underdeveloped and underfunded, forcing residents to be overly dependant on this bridge to get places. The region’s transportation options are broken – fix it!

Fix it: yes, TransLink has provided us a compelling list of the current bridge’s problems, but they have not talked about how they will fix them. Time to get started.

C’mon TransLink, we are all in the same camp here. Let’s agree on a plan, let’s lobby the senior governments to get you the funds you need, and let’s fix the damn bridge.

6 comments on “Fix it.

  1. Wow. Couldn’t agree more. I’ll take you a step further. We need to stop paying $1B+ every time some big contractor is coming to the end of a Project and needs to figure out where the next big payday is going to come from.

    And for what it’s worth, the back of the bridge in the photo above doesn’t need to be fixed. She makes wonderful chocolate chip cookies for her staff.

  2. I’ll take your word that the worst safety issues have been dealt with. In that case fixing it is definitely the approach to take.

    I’d like to note that pothole fixing is important for more than just the sake of bridge users’ wheels. Deep holes in the deck expose the steel to stresses it was not designed to handle.

  3. Even if you can’t fix it (and by fix it, I mean seismically fix it, and straighten that bend in the road), at least you could paint it! Toll it! Ban trucks on it! Maybe you even have to turn it into SINGLE LANES both ways, or more likely, implement a reversible lane.

    I’ve tried biking over it recently, and while I never really enjoyed driving over the bridge, biking provides a whole new set of challenges. It’s undivided from vehicles most of the way, there’s barely room for two bikes to pass, and the railing seems rather low when I’m sitting on my bike! (maybe that’s just me). I also don’t like what appears to be chassis marks veering onto the sidewalk, and then back onto the road in one spot. I don’t mind going south, but coming north is half as fun, especially in the hot sun.

    I see from this document that the Queensborough bridge upgrade cost $65 million dollars back in 2009. That’s for a 50 year old bridge which already saw some seismic upgrading in the 1990s.

    On an unrelated note, here’s one more question I have about that OTHER bridge, the one the Pattullo replaced. Sort of. What’s to become of the New Westminster Rail Bridge? Wikipedia says:

    “The lower deck was used for rail traffic, and the upper deck was used for automobile traffic. With the opening of the Pattullo Bridge in 1937, the upper deck was removed and the bridge was converted exclusively for rail use.

    The toll for the upper bridge was 25 cents and created quite an uproar for farmers who found out quickly that by taking their livestock across on foot would cost them a quarter a head but if they put them in a truck it cost a quarter for the whole load.”

    Oh, and THEY TOOK LIVESTOCK OVER THE BRIDGE ON FOOT! Think about that during rush hour.

    I would like to know if the railway is a partner in the conversation, or are they completely autonomous? Next year, that swing bridge will be 100 years old, and I’m not sure how many times it has been upgraded. The Mission Railway Bridge downstream isn’t much younger, built in 1909. Does the railway have their own plan for the future?

    I ultimately don’t know if we can or should save the Pattullo, but I really do agree we should paint it.

  4. I’d like to see the bridge moved (physically picked up, and walked) down to a spot where people coming off the bridge can get on Hwy 1 without clogging up McBride, 6th Avenue, 10th Avenue, and Columbia.

  5. I would like to see truck traffic banned from the Patullo and Royal. Creating a monster bridge isn’t going to do anything to prevent the traffic jams that occur on essentially residential streets. The trucks have other truck safe routes and should be forced to use them.

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