Coun. Chuck Puchmayr is convinced New Westminster will pay the price for poor planning.
Puchmayr has served a notice of motion that he'd like New Westminster city council to ask the provincial government to intervene and have an independent assessment done of access to the new Port Mann Bridge from the South Fraser Perimeter Road, and to consider the efficient movement of goods to the northeast sector and the long-term air quality for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley as part of that assessment. Puchmayr is concerned that there's no direct access for trucks wanting to access the bridge from South Fraser Perimeter Road, which is located on the Surrey side of the Fraser River.
"We are told by TransLink that in order to put an onramp onto Port Mann from South Fraser Perimeter Road it would be too steep," he said. "I went out there with my GPS. I was shocked at how steep the alternative they have built is."
Instead of accessing the bridge directly, Puchmayr said trucks would have to take a 15 kilometre detour that sees them traveling under the Port Mann Bridge, continuing on South Fraser Perimeter Road along the river, traveling up a steep grade and entering the freeway at the Cloverdale exit.
"It's a massive detour," he said. "It's 15 kilometres at a steep grade."
Puchmayr believes the result will be increased wear and tear on trucks and increased cost of fuel for trucks. When combined with the tolls planned for the Port Mann, he fears more trucks will head to the Pattullo Bridge and travel through New Westminster.
"It's interesting that TransLink, without showing us any details, says, 'no, it can't be done, no it's too steep,'" he said of a direct connection. "There is no way council or the community can get clarity on that issue. We don't get any of the science behind what TransLink is telling us."
Puchmayr hopes the province will have more success in getting the data that went into the decision to send traffic to the 176th Street access point, a move he believes will contribute to increased greenhouse gas emissions.
"New Westminster should care. The fact they are not making the connection makes the Pattullo Bridge the default for trucks," he said. "We put that to TransLink. They said the modeling showed the trucks will take that long detour rather than go through New Westminster."
New Westminster isn't the only community that should be concerned about the proposed connection, added Puchmayr.
"I think people in the Fraser Valley should be concerned," he said about air quality concerns. "I think the trucking industry should be concerned."
Puchmayr believes there's still an opportunity to make a better connection from South Fraser Perimeter Road to the new Port Mann Bridge.
"I'd like to see the connection made right at the Port Mann Bridge, which certainly would require some kind of engineering. There is land where the landfill is. It is definitely doable," he said. "Greater challenges have been overcome in engineering."
Puchmayr worries that a "cheap fix" has been chosen, but it's a decision that "cops out" on the Gateway program's intent of moving commercial traffic efficiently through the region.
"The South Fraser Perimeter Road should have been engineered to connect at Port Mann," he said.
Puchmayr put forward his notice of motion at Monday's council meeting to give fellow councillors time to mull it over before discussing it at the next council meeting. If supported by council, he'd like New Westminster to get support from neighbouring municipalities in calling on the province for an independent assessment.
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