The Pattullo Bridge is expected to undergo significant maintenance starting next year.

The Pattullo Bridge is expected to undergo significant maintenance starting next year.

Province urged to cut Port Mann tolls during Pattullo work

Pattullo is untolled alternative but how useful will it be if lane closures are frequent during maintenance?

Transportation Minister Todd Stone is being urged to reduce or eliminate the tolls on the Port Mann Bridge while maintenance work restricts the use of the nearby Pattullo Bridge for months or even years.

The Pattullo is supposed to be the free alternative to the Port Mann but it will become more difficult to use if there are frequent lane closures during next year’s planned $100-million upgrade, Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman said.

“We’ve asked if the tolls on the Port Mann could be suspended or reduced,” Huberman said. “If the Pattullo Bridge only has one lane open, that’s going to present a problem. We just want to give people options to move across the bridge without it costing too much.”

The seismic rehabilitation and deck replacement of the 76-year-old bridge is expected to begin in early 2015 but TransLink officials contacted Tuesday were unable to say how long the project will last.

Newly elected New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté said he also supports reduced or suspended Port Mann tolls during Pattullo construction.

New Westminster council has previously called for lower tolls on the Port Mann to reduce truck use of the free Pattullo, or else an outright ban on trucks there.

“We’ve faced pretty negative consequences with high tolls on the Port Mann Bridge and the Pattullo being the free alternative,” Coté said, noting the toll for trucks is $9 each way.

“It’s delivered a lot of traffic that should be on the highway network into our road network.”

Stone could not be reached for comment.

The Pattullo rehabilitation would be the minimum required to ensure it remains safe while work proceeds to design and build a modern new four-lane bridge, expected to open in 2023.

Although the bridge replacement is listed as part of Metro Vancouver mayors’ package of projects expected to go to referendum next spring, TransLink officials have previously said they plan to rebuild the Pattullo even if the referendum fails.

The new four-lane Pattullo would be tolled to pay for its construction. The existing span is considered critical for goods movement but is at risk of being knocked out of service by a moderate earthquake or a ship collision.