Council says no to Stone's two Bailey bridge offer

New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright -
New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright
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New Westminster has declined Transportation Minister Todd Stone’s conditional offer of two temporary Bailey bridges.

New Westminster closed the one-lane bridge across the Brunette River that connects Coquitlam’s United Boulevard to the Braid Industrial area for safety reasons in March. The city thought it had lined up a replacement Bailey bridge from the province. But last week Stone informed New Westminster it must also accept installation of a second one to make it a two-lane connection.

The two cities have been at loggerheads over the crossing. New West wants to keep it at one lane because increasing the capacity would create additional congestion for the busy Brunette Avenue and Braid Street intersection. The dispute has headed to binding arbitration with a decision to be handed down before July 1.

“Adding additional capacity would only make the situation worse,” wrote Mayor Wayne Wright in the city’s response to Stone. “A recent study conducted for the cities of Coquitlam and New Westminster found that a two-lane crossing could see an increase of traffic of up to 80 per cent, which would raise congestion back to unacceptable levels.”

Wright said the city spent $30,000 in material and equipment in anticipation of the arrival of the bridge the province had promised to provide without the condition it was now imposing.

Wright asked Stone to honour that commitment by Tuesday. He suggested the province could provide a temporary bridge and postpone any decision on an additional bridge until the arbitrator makes a decision.

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr called the province’s position blackmail at Monday’s council meeting. Coun. Bill Harper said Stone’s acceptance of Coquitlam’s position was inappropriate.

“Intervening in an arbitration in the middle of a process is a little like intervening in a court trial and actually taking sides in a court trial,” said Harper. “That is, quite frankly, unforgivable. … He is taking sides and that is completely inappropriate.”

Wright and several councillors criticized Stone for finding out about his conditional offer through Twitter or the media.

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