The City of New Westminster is willing to consider a new Bailey Bridge - as long as it's only one lane.
Coquitlam city council is pushing for an immediate replacement of the one-lane Bailey Bridge with a new two-lane bridge by September. The proposal would have the two communities sharing the cost of the project that links the cities through the Braid industrial area.
"We are not going anymore than a single lane bridge," said Mayor Wayne Wright. "It could be a better bridge. That is all that area will take."
Wright said New Westminster would be willing to consider construction of a new one-lane bridge that has a greater weight capacity and accommodates pedestrians.
He said New Westminster is willing to work with Coquitlam to "get something done" in a timely fashion, but that doesn't include a two-lane bridge.
"That's not the kind of solution we are looking for," he said.
The City of New Westminster firmly believes that a two-lane bridge would worsen the longstanding traffic issues that exist in the industrial area and Braid/Brunette corridor. To access the area, motorists must cross several railway tracks.
On March 26, Wright met with representatives from Stella-Jones, a company located on the Coquitlam side of the Bailey Bridge. The company manufactures wood products such as utility poles and railway ties.
"They were in to see me and say, 'what can we do? Our business is suffering,'" he said. "They can't get over the bridge."
In February, the City of New Westminster closed the Bailey Bridge after an engineering assessment revealed the bridge had a crack in one of the structure supports, something the city attributed to excessive wear and tear.
New Westminster and Coquitlam worked together with the contractor, and shared the costs, to have the repairs done.
When the bridge reopened a few days later, new load restrictions were in effect that limited vehicle traffic to 15 tonnes maximum - meaning no heavy commercial trucks are permitted cross the bridge.
Wright said New Westminster is willing to consider construction of a new single-lane bridge that includes a greater weight capacity.
"The biggest taxpayer they (Coquitlam) have in that area was just in here - they would be happy with that," he said.
The Bailey Bridge has been a contentious issue between the New Westminster and Coquitlam for years.
In 2002, New Westminster put up a gate that blocked vehicles from crossing into New Westminster from Coquitlam - after Coquitlam built a four-lane connection from United Boulevard to the Braid industrial area via the one-lane Bailey Bridge. At the time, the City of New Westminster estimated traffic increased from less than 200 vehicles a day to more than 10,000 on a typical weekday.
The city's actions ended up in court, where a judge ordered New Westminster to allow traffic to use the route.
In 2005, Transport Canada issued an order to the city in response to concerns about the safety of vehicles crossing the railway tracks near Braid and Brunette Avenue, after a railway company expressed concern about "near misses involving trains and vehicles" at the Braid Street Railway Crossing. In response to the order, the city had to temporarily pro-vide flag persons at the site to ensure no vehicles stopped on or near the railway crossing during daylight hours.
Transport Canada also required the city to provide a traffic safety and operational review report on Braid Street and to implement recommendations that would substantially mitigate safety issues at the railway crossing.
Wright said the temporary bridge was constructed about 18 years ago and has a lifespan of 20 to 22 years.
"It's a safety factor all the way around," he said of the current structure. "The bridge has only got 24 to 36 months of life in it."
Coquitlam fire chief Tony Delmonico recently told the Coquitlam NOW that a engineer's report states that fire trucks can cross the bridge if necessary, but his crews have been instructed to take alternate routes.
A City of Coquitlam staff report stated the 15-tonne weight restriction "significantly limits the usefulness the bridge considering the demand for goods movement along the Braid/United corridors.
While the new weight restrictions prevent trucks from traveling across the Bailey Bridge, Wright said the majority of vehicles crossing the structure are cars.
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