01/08/2014 19:28 EST | Updated 03/10/2014 05:59 EDT

New Port Mann Bridge toll puts pressure on Pattullo traffic

A Surrey resident says the amount of traffic in her neighbourhood has been a "nightmare" since new tolls were introduced on the Port Mann Bridge last week.

Cars, pickup trucks and small vans had been paying a rate of $1.50 for each crossing of the Port Mann Bridge since tolls were introduced in 2012, but on Jan. 1 rates doubled to $3.

Ruth Reiter has lived in Surrey's Bridgeview neighbourhood for eight years and says she has never seen so much traffic.

"To take a trip up to Price Mart Foods, on a normal day, would take me 15 minutes. Yesterday it took me an hour," said Reiter.

Reiter blames the increased congestion on drivers who are taking the toll-free Pattullo Bridge instead of paying to cross the Port Mann.

"Right now people just don't have a choice. This bridge is free. The Port Mann is not free," said Reiter.

​New Westminster city councillor Jonathan Cote says he has noticed a difference too.

"We don't have any official statistics in yet, but just looking at the road network it does look like there's been impact and congestion has gotten worse since the tolls have increased on the Port Mann," said Cote.

But Surrey transportation manager Jamie Boan says there is no evidence that the number of people using the Pattullo Bridge has changed.

"We've actually got cameras and a count station at the approach to the bridge and we have been monitoring that. We actually haven't seen any increase in the volume going across the Pattullo," said Boan.

TransLink also monitors the flow of traffic over its bridges, but was unable to obtain a reading this week because of technical problems. 

Meanwhile, negotiations over what to do about the 75-year-old​ Pattullo Bridge have stalled. Last June, TransLink presented six options to New Westminster and Surrey for replacing the aging bridge.

Those options have been whittled down to two — either a new four -lane or a new six-lane crossing. But Cote says this will be a disaster for the city.

"Adding extra capacity just simply isn't going to work for the City of New Westminster, because all we are going to be doing is moving congestion further into the city and making an already difficult situation even worse."

The fate of the Pattullo Bridge — and whether or not it will be tolled — will be decided later this year.