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Pattullo meetings off as TransLink focuses on referendum

Many residents said they saw an immediate increase in traffic in New West when tolls on the Port Mann doubled last month. - NewsLeader file photo
Many residents said they saw an immediate increase in traffic in New West when tolls on the Port Mann doubled last month.
— image credit: NewsLeader file photo

TransLink has postponed planned public consultations on the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge, saying it's more urgent to work with Metro Vancouver mayors and the province to craft a transit expansion plan ahead of an expected regional referendum.

Public meetings in New Westminster, Surrey and Coquitlam had been slated for Feb. 24 to March 14.

TransLink officials say they intend to reschedule the consultations for later in the spring.

"As the Pattullo Bridge is one of the key priorities for the region, TransLink needs time to confirm with the mayors' council how options for this project will fit into the regional plan," TransLink said in an emailed statement.

The deadline for mayors and TransLink to finalize that plan is the end of June, with a referendum on new taxes to fund it to happen by mid-2015.

The province has agreed to fund one third of the cost of replacing the Pattullo.

But mayors' council chair Richard Walton says one unresolved issue to be determined with the province is whether TransLink would have the option of tolling the new bridge to cover the remainder of the cost.

If not, TransLink would have to earmark a significant chunk of any new revenue – assuming the referendum succeeds – to the $1-billion-plus Pattullo project.

TransLink has already budgeted nearly $300 million over the next three years for repairs to the Pattullo, although it may avoid spending all of the money if a replacement decision is made soon enough.

The Pattullo could be knocked out of service by a moderate earthquake, a ship collision with its piers or the scouring effect of the Fraser River.

New Westminster and Surrey politicians are split on what should be built to replace the Pattullo.

Surrey council has pushed for a six-lane replacement. But New West says its streets can't handle that much traffic and instead wants a new Surrey-Coquitlam bridge that would let most traffic bypass the royal city.

TransLink was expected to present a refined list of alternatives and findings following previous Pattullo consultations last year.

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