The old and seismically unstable Pattullo Bridge will finally be replaced by 2023, assuming funding commitments to construct the new crossing are finalized in time this year.
TransLink is planning to replace the 1937-built crossing across the Fraser River between New Westminster and Surrey with a new four-lane bridge immediately north of the existing four-lane structure.
According to the latest documents on the cable suspension bridge replacement project, the new crossing will be a safer crossing with wider lanes and a centre median barrier that separates traffic travelling in opposite directions. It will also be a more reliable crossing with wider lane widths to provide a 10% increase in capacity.
Separated bike lanes and pedestrian paths will be built on the edge of the bridge on both directions.
The bridge deck is designed for the allowance of a future expansion into a six-lane vehicle bridge through the conversion of the bike and pedestrian spaces into an extra two lanes. The deck can also be widened to provide replacement bike lanes and pedestrian paths.
Several years ago, the proposal initially contemplated a six-lane bridge, but this capacity was opposed by the City of New Westminster over concerns it would bring more traffic into its city streets.
The project also includes a major new road network on both sides of the bridge, including a realignment and extension of Scott Road to provide a more direct connection to King George Boulevard through a new interchange. There will also be a new direct connection between the bridge and the westbound lanes of Highway 17.
On the northern side of the river, the road network will remain similar to what currently exists, with some improvements such as a new direction connection between the bridge and East Columbia Street and improved controlled crossings for pedestrians and cyclists. A new intersection at McBridge Boulevard and Royal Avenue is planned to make it more pedestrian-friendly.
The public transit authority has not released its latest cost estimate for the new bridge, but previous estimates pegged the project at $1 billion, including all the new road infrastructure. It will be built as a public-private partnership, with the final design of the bridge determined by the successful contractor.
It remains to be seen how the bridge will be exactly funded, as the Mayors’ Council had initially envisioned using tolls. But that is no longer an option due to the new provincial government’s policy of axing all tolls, which could be replaced by a new mobility pricing system recommended by the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission.
Construction on the new bridge is currently scheduled to begin in spring 2019, and when complete the old bridge will be decommissioned and demolished.
A 2016 report sent to TransLink’s Board of Directors stated that the existing bridge would need to be closed by 2024 at the very latest given its rate of deterioration.
Not only is the bridge not expected to survive a modest earthquake, it could also collapse during a windstorm, according to the report.
“The Pattullo Bridge was not designed to meet current wind and seismic loading standards, and as a result, may be vulnerable in terms of withstanding a seismic or high wind event,” reads the report.
Issues with the structure include weakening steel, crumbling concrete, river wave action eroding foundations, and piers that do not protect the structure from potential ship impacts.
As well, the bridge deck is too narrow with unsafe curvatures, making it a hot spot for collisions.
TransLink completed a modest $25-million rehabilitation of the bridge deck in 2016, but even with the upgrades the bridge’s capacity is reduced to two lanes during the overnight hours for safety reasons.