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New possibilities for Pattullo Bridge

KEITH MACKENZIE, 24 HOURS
The Pattullo Bridge is in danger of being demolished in favour of a new six-lane bridge, but repurposing the bridge is a topic that will be covered at the Pattullo Bridge Community Forum on June 6 at 7 p.m. in New Westminster at La Perla Ballroom. (KEITH MACKENZIE, 24 HOURS)

The Pattullo Bridge is in danger of being demolished in favour of a new six-lane bridge, but repurposing the bridge is a topic that will be covered at the Pattullo Bridge Community Forum on June 6 at 7 p.m. in New Westminster at La Perla Ballroom. (KEITH MACKENZIE, 24 HOURS)

Everything old can be new again.

That's the sentiment of a community forum taking place June 6 in New Westminster - co-sponsored by La Perla Ballroom and 24 hours - about what can be done with the historic Pattullo Bridge.

As it is, TransLink - which owns the bridge - intends to build a new six-lane bridge spanning the same area of the Fraser River and demolish the old one. This plan, TransLink says, is to accommodate the increased flow of commuter traffic, something it says the old Pattullo, built in 1937, cannot maintain. Additionally, it adds in its report, the bridge "does not meet current road and seismic design guidelines."

More information on the Pattullo community forum

TransLink held four public consultations - two in Surrey and two in New Westminster, the cities most affected - in February promoting four versions of the new bridge, all very similar to one another.

New Westminster city hall - which opted out of TransLink's public consultation process, preferring to hold its own - proposed six alternatives to TransLink's design in order to broaden people's thinking. Options included moving the new bridge downstream to an area just west of Queensborough Bridge, or moving it further upstream to a wider part of the Fraser and away from the city's downtown core. Another option involved tearing down the old Pattullo and not building a new bridge at all.

The business communities of New Westminster and Surrey held a closed-door forum of their own for members only.

One question has yet to be considered, however: What can we do with the existing bridge, short of demolishing it?

The new community forum, which is open to everyone, will touch on that. SFU urban design experts Gordon Price and Anthony Perl, as well as New Westminster transportation engineer Jerry Behl, will present.

Bridges have been or are being repurposed and turned into green, pedestrian-only spaces all around the world, such as Paris' Promenade Plantée, New York City's High Line Park and Philadelphia's famous Reading Viaduct. Similar projects have been suggested for Washington D.C.'s old 11th Street Bridge, and even the old Port Mann crossing upstream from the Pattullo, an "audacious idea", writes Price in his blog, Price Tags.

"That would be spectacular," Price added about the Port Mann park concept, quietly floated by Gaetan Royer, a manager at Metro Vancouver. "I love the idea. It's just so audacious and jaw-dropping to think of what the possibilities might be."

Other examples of repurposed urban infrastructure

Likewise for the Pattullo Bridge, the forum on June 6 will take a look at what is possible and see what new ideas can be implemented for the old structure.