TransLink is earmarking nearly $300 million to rehabilitate the aging Pattullo Bridge over the next three years even though the structure could be torn down soon after the work is done.
But officials at the regional transportation authority insist they will try not to spend the money unnecessarily and are hopeful the bulk of the outlay can be averted if a decision on replacing the Pattullo with a new bridge can be made soon enough.
The projected amount to be spent repairing the bridge has doubled from a previous estimate of $150 million to $299 million after work on the span this summer gave TransLink a better idea of what is needed.
Executive vice-president of policy and strategic planning Bob Paddon said the rehab work could begin as soon as 2015 and he hopes a decision on the Pattullo’s replacement will be made in 2014.
But even a quick decision on replacement won’t avert the need to expend a significant amount fixing the old bridge, Paddon said, because those repairs will be necessary before a new bridge opens.
“We will need to spend some money though because even if we have a decision we’re still going to have to figure out how to fund it and then you have to build it,” he said at a recent meeting of Metro Vancouver mayors.
Much of the required work is on the bridge deck itself, in addition to seismic upgrades.
CEO Ian Jarvis said TransLink is required to plan for the rehabilitation scenario in its new base plan, because it has no revenue secured yet to replace the bridge.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said it would be much better to divert Pattullo upgrade spending to increased bus and SkyTrain service, if possible.
“We want to put as much into [transit] service as we possibly can,” Jarvis responded.
Public consultation found most respondents back a new six-lane Pattullo, but the idea was opposed by most New Westminster residents, who would rather trucks and other traffic from Surrey somehow bypass their city.
TransLink has winnowed 25 bridge replacement configurations down to six.
It aims to short-list two or three preferred options this winter ahead of a final choice – if the cities of Surrey and New Westminster can unite behind one.
It’s assumed the new $1-billion-plus crossing would be paid for through tolls but no decision has been made on financing.
The Pattullo could be knocked out of service by a moderate earthquake or a ship collision, and is at risk of being undermined by river scour, according to TransLink reports.
TransLink released its new 2014 base plan Friday for public consultation.
It will maintain total transit service hours on a $1.49-billion budget despite a $20 million a year deficit that requires it to draw down reserves and prepare to sell surplus real estate.
The plan calls for TransLink to move ahead with seven SkyTrain station upgrades and provides for its share of the cost of building the new Evergreen Line to Coquitlam.