Now that the Pattullo Bridge has been repaired and 80,000 cars are once again cutting through New Westminster each day, I can report that many of the locals really enjoyed a taste of seven 'car free days'.
I wrote here earlier about how the closure of the bridge had transformed my community from an off-ramp for Fraser Valley drivers, into a quaint city of 50,000 people. It was simply heaven.
Opinions regarding the future of the Pattullo Bridge have most certainly been mixed. Some want it to stay closed, while others believe it should be turned into a bicycle bridge. Regardless, if nothing else, the seven day closure of the bridge has certainly ignited a heated debate in this community about where we go from here.
Blair Armitage, former mayoral candidate for VOICE New Westminster weighed in on the issue:
While campaigning as candidate for mayor during the municipal election this past fall, traffic was a priority issue. Nothing highlighted this issue more than the sudden closure of the Pattullo Bridge this month. For many residents it was instant relief from the noise and smells associated with the thousands of cars that normally go through their community. For others who live near the worst choke points in New Westminster such as the Braid and Columbia intersection, it was a bad dream moving into night terrors. Cars and trucks lined up endlessly as they inched their way onto Highway 1 spewing their exhaust fumes.
The New Westminster News Leader also had a provocative cover for their January 28th edition which read: What if the Pattullo moved? It explored in-depth the ramifications and benefits of the bridge closure to British Columbia's oldest city. In particular, they openly raise the concept of the bridge being moved out of the community, and into Coquitlam. Something that will likely not sit well with Mayor Richard Stewart.
Ian Brady is a resident of New Westminster who spoke to the Leader about how thrilled he was the bridge had closed down:
"It was so pleasant for a week...It was a week of peace. We regularly have to adjust pictures on our walls because of the vibrations."
Jamie McEvoy, a local city councillor said he heard an earful from local residents about how peaceful the city was during the closure. Although he remains non-committal about what the future of the Pattullo should be, he states:
"I heard from people all over the city about the Pattullo closure. Even the West End and Moody Park, everywhere, and they said that traffic was a lot better.”
Not everyone is in agreement about the benefits of shutting down a main arterial in the heart of Metro Vancouver. One man identified only as "mvon" on the News Leader website posted the following comment:
"Let's build for the FUTURE of our city. Face it, cars are not going away and better fuel economy and hybrid vehicles are around the corner. New Westminster residents that are resistant to change ought to consider moving to the 1960's."
McBride 'Highway' which feeds the Pattullo Bridge was so quiet during the bridge closure, that you could have likely played a street hockey on it and only been required to dodge the occasional vehicle. No longer. Life has returned back to 'normal', and the 'highway' has become a parking lot again on most days.
The debate over the future of the Pattullo has really only just begun, and based on what I've heard over the last 10 days, it's sure to be a controversial one.