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UPDATE: Bailey bridge arbitrator rules in favour of Coquitlam
An arbitrator's decision to side with Coquitlam in its Bailey bridge dispute with New Westminster could pave the way for a new two-lane crossing as early as this fall.
The ruling ends a 20-year-old feud between the two municipalities, with Coquitlam arguing that the current single-lane span is inadequate for the amount of vehicle traffic in the area. New Westminster has long maintained that a larger bridge would bring more cars to the foot of Braid Street, an area that is already heavily congested with motorists.
However on Wednesday, arbitrator S. Glenn Sigurdson sided with the city of Coquitlam and a plan must be put in place for a two-lane crossing within 60 days, according to the Community Charter.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart told The Tri-City News that the decision ends the long-standing dispute between the two municipalities.
"The next step is to sit down with the city of New Westminster and implement the decision," he said. "I fully expect that they will be cooperative and will abide by the decision."
However, finding common ground between the two municipalities could be problematic, according to one New Westminster councillor.
Coun. Bill Harper said he was disappointed with the ruling and told Black Press that Stewart has damaged relations between the two cities.
"I just think the mayor of Coquitlam has destroyed the relationship between the city of Coquitlam and the city of New Westminster through what I would call his rancorous position that he has taken in insisting he get his way," he said.
Harper called the arbitrator's decision "a complete disaster." He added that he believes provincial Transportation Minister Todd Stone interfered with the arbitration process.
The province had offered to provide a Bailey bridge only if New West was willing to accept the installation of a two-lane crossing. The city turned down the offer and spent $100,000 to ins all its own bridge.
The crossing has been closed since March after engineers discovered cracks in the structure during a routine maintenance inspection. It is the second time in the last year that the bridge has been closed for repairs.
Under the Community Charter, Sigurdson is prohibited from providing the reasons for his decision.
"I find the proposal of the city of Coquitlam to be more persuasive than that of the city of New Westminster in respect to the specific issue before me," he wrote in his decision. "Accordingly I select the proposal of the city of Coquitlam for a two-lane, two-way bridge, and do so decide and settle the matter in dispute."
-with files from Grant Granger