B.C. government pulls trigger on new Pattullo Bridge

B.C. government pulls trigger on new Pattullo Bridge

The 80-year-old Pattullo Bridge will be replaced at a cost of $1.37 billion.

The B.C. NDP government is making good on an election promise to replace the 80-year-old Pattullo Bridge with a new four-lane bridge.

Premier John Horgan announced Friday, February 16 that construction of the bridge will begin in the summer of 2019 and is scheduled to be open in 2023.

The new bridge with include cycling and pedestrian paths on each side and will be designed so that its four lanes can eventually be expanded to six lanes.

“But it’s our view, and the view of TransLink, and officials at Ministry of Transportation, that four lanes with an ability to go to six is appropriate at this time,” Horgan said at a Friday morning press conference.

The capital cost of the new 1.2-kilometre bridge is estimated at $1.37 billion.

For comparison, the 10-lane, two-kilometre Port Mann Bridge, originally estimated to cost $2.5 billion, came in at $3.3 billion, which is roughly how much the George Massey Tunnel replacement bridge was estimated to cost.

Built in 1930, the bridge is “long overdue” for replacement, Horgan said.

The Pattullo Bridge has been identified for replacement for decades, but TransLink, which is responsible for the bridge, has struggled to come up with its share of the costs of replacement, and the previous Liberal government disagreed that the Pattullo was a priority, designating the George Massey tunnel as a higher priority.

With the province assuming the cost of replacing the bridge, Horgan said TransLink will be freed up to focus on other transit related priorities. The money for the bridge’s replacement will come from the government’s $14.6 capital plan.

Removing tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges has eased some of the traffic pressure on the Pattullo, Horgan said, but that hasn’t made it safer. The bridge’s narrow lanes and curve at the south end makes it nerve-wracking to negotiate.

Whether pulling the trigger on the Pattullo means the replacement of the George Massey Tunnel is now indefinitely on hold remains to be seen. Horgan said his government is still studying the issue and plans to have a report on the George Massey Tunnel completed this spring.

Asked if Ottawa will be contributing to the bridge’s costs, Horgan said that is up for discussion.

The bridge was originally conceived as a toll bridge, which Ottawa does not fund, Horgan said. But now that the province is assuming responsibility for an untolled bridge, he said his government will be discussing Ottawa’s potential participation.

“We’ll be discussing with Ottawa any opportunities for joint participation,” Horgan said.

But given the increasingly frosty relationship between B.C. and Ottawa over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, it will be interesting to see how those discussions unfold.

The Pattullo currently has average daily traffic of 68,000 vehicles, said Transportation Minister Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena.

By contrast, the George Massey Tunnel has 80,000 daily crossings. For the business community, the George Massey Tunnel replacement project was considered the highest priority, since it is an important part for the movement of goods to shipping terminals and BC Ferries.

But for the Mayors Council of Regional Transportation, the Pattullo was identified as a priority, not the George Massey Tunnel.

Horgan said the Pattullo project marks a new, improved relationship between the provincial government and Mayors Council.

“This is not just a bridge across the river, it’s a bridge between governments,” Horgan said.

nbennett@biv.com

@nbennett_biv