It was touted as a chance to explore what could be done with the old Pattullo Bridge once a new bridge was completed.
The event, held Wednesday night at New Westminster’s River Market, was organized by local residents Keith Mackenzie and Daniel Fontaine, who hoped to discuss visionary ideas such as a bridge re-purposed for restaurants and cafés, a linear park, or even housing—judging by the preview posts on the event’s Facebook page.
Instead, the event was immediately gripped by what are perhaps the more pressing questions of how will the Pattullo be replaced, where, and should it be scrapped altogether.
TransLink wants to build a new, six-lane bridge near the old span’s current location by 2018. New Westminster residents have voiced strong concerns about the impact this larger bridge could have on livability, while the City of Surrey is clear that a six-lane bridge is needed.
At Wednesday’s event, Gordon Price, director of The City Program at SFU compared the current situation to the opening of the original, five-lane Port Mann Bridge in 1964, which paved the way for rapid development in the Fraser Valley. This bridge created communities that were car-dependent, he said.
“I’m not going to beat up on the car or the truck—they are absolutely indispensable,” said Price. “It’s the dependent part that is the problem.”
Price and fellow speaker Anthony Perl, an SFU professor, said the current discussion about the bridge should look to the future, and the changes in energy prices and people’s habits that are already underway. It would be unfair to criticize the decision makers in 1964 who decided to build the original Port Mann, Price said, but “are we going to lock the next generation into further car dependence, by not looking at other options?
“To do that today in 2012 is breathtaking.”Read more »