$3.8 billion Boundary Road Bridge to link Vancouver and Burnaby with Richmond

Apr 1 2023, 3:00 pm

A new additional road and railway crossing will be built across the Fraser River’s north arm to provide a new multi-modal regional transportation connection between Vancouver and Burnaby to the north and Richmond to the south.

In a press conference this morning, the Government of British Columbia announced its proposal to build a new bridge at the southern end of Boundary Road with four vehicle lanes — two lanes in each direction — and future freight and high-speed passenger railways at the southern end of Boundary Road.

“This new multi-modal bridge will connect Vancouver and Burnaby with Richmond, providing a seamless transportation network for residents and visitors alike,” said Premier David Eby.

“The bridge will feature state-of-the-art design and infrastructure, including dedicated vehicle lanes, a multi-use path for pedestrians and cyclists, and space for freight railways and high-speed passenger rail services. We are committed to making British Columbia a leader in sustainable transportation, and this bridge is a major step towards that goal.”

The $3.8-billion Boundary Road Crossing project includes a new interchange at the existing intersection of Marine Drive and Boundary Road, a new two-km-long, four-lane road in Richmond to connect the southern end of the bridge with Highway 91, and a new interchange for where the new access road meets Highway 91.

A new north-south Richmond Connector road from the southern end of the bridge will follow the existing route of No. 8 Road.

This will be unique bridge with three physically separate bridge decks using an extradosed bridge design, which combines the forms of a prestressed box girder bridge and a cable-stayed bridge with short suspension towers, accommodating Vancouver International Airport’s runway flightpath.

The west and east decks on the outer portion of the bridge will carry the southbound and northbound vehicle lanes, and a multi-use pathway for pedestrians and cyclists will be found on the west side of the bridge.

The centre deck of the bridge will be constructed to accommodate future freight trains and high-speed rail passenger trains. This configuration sets aside future space for two freight railway tracks, and two high-speed rail tracks.

boundary road bridge vancouver

Preliminary conceptual artistic rendering of the extradosed bridge design for the Boundary Road Bridge over the north arm of the Fraser River between Vancouver/Burnaby and Richmond. (Government of BC)

This $3.8-billion Boundary Road Crossing represents the first phase of a $19-billion road, freight rail, and passenger rail corridor project that will be completed over 20 years. If all goes as planned, the first phase could begin construction in 2028 for completion in 2032.

A second phase will further extend the Richmond Connector road southwards to South Richmond, where there will be another new bridge over the south arm of the Fraser River linking Richmond and Delta. This will establish an additional bridge — four vehicle lanes, two freight railway tracks, and two high-speed passenger rail tracks — reaching Delta’s Tilbury industrial area and directly connecting with the South Fraser Perimeter Road (Highway 17).

The bulk of the entire corridor project will be completed in the third and final phase, situated within Vancouver and Burnaby.

boundary road bridge vancouver

The three phases of the Metro Vancouver North-South Corridor Project, including the Boundary Road Crossing (red). (Government of BC)

The third phase entails building a 14-km-long tunnel, configured as a stacked tunnel with one level with two freight rail tracks and a second level for high-speed passenger rail tracks.

This includes an eight-km-long, north-south stacked tunnel beneath Boundary Road between Marine Drive (the northern end of the first phase’s Fraser River north arm bridge) and East 1st Avenue. In the vicinity of East 1st Avenue, the north-south Boundary Road tunnel will transition into a six-km-long, west-east tunnel underneath East 1st Avenue towards the False Creek Flats.

The freight railway connection will be jointly shared by Canadian Pacific (CP) and Canadian National (CN) — seamlessly connecting with CP’s existing railway along the Fraser River in South Vancouver and South Burnaby (the northern end of the first phase’s Fraser River north arm bridge), CN’s existing railway and Lulu Island Yard in northeast Richmond (the southern end of the first phase’s bridge), CN’s existing railway and Ewen Yard in southeast Richmond (the northern end of the second phase’s bridge), and CN’s existing railway in Tilbury in Delta.

This creates much-needed new freight railway capacity to reach Burrard Inlet’s port facilities near downtown Vancouver and in East Vancouver, which are highly constrained by the existing capacity limitations of existing railways. There are currently highly limited options to expand the capacity of existing railways serving port facilities in Vancouver.

“Boundary Road Bridge will not only improve transportation for commuters and travellers, but it will also revolutionize freight traffic in the region. By providing new freight railway capacity, we will alleviate congested railways serving ports that are experiencing increased traffic,” said BC minister of transportation and infrastructure Rob Fleming.

“This means that we will see a decrease in freight trucks on city streets, which will have significant environmental benefits. By reducing emissions, we will be doing our part to combat climate change and improve the livability of residential neighbourhoods.”

Vancouver mayor Ken Sim added: “The new freight railways on Boundary Road’s bridge and tunnel will help reduce the number of heavy-polluting freight trucks on Knight Street, which has been a major source of air pollution in our community. By shifting freight traffic to the railway, we can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality for residents.”

boundary road bridge vancouver

Preliminary conceptual artistic rendering of the extradosed bridge design for the Boundary Road Bridge over the north arm of the Fraser River between Vancouver/Burnaby and Richmond. (Government of BC)

The combined corridor route of the three-phased project also provides a path forward for future high-speed passenger rail services from Portland and Seattle to directly reach central Vancouver, with the northernmost terminus located at Pacific Central Station in the False Creek Flats.

It should be noted that the third phase will be timed with the partnership between the governments of BC, Washington State, and Oregon to build a high-speed passenger rail service linking their jurisdictions.

“Our government is committed to sustainable transportation solutions that benefit all British Columbians. The Boundary Road Bridge will be a shining example of how we can improve transportation infrastructure while also protecting our environment and enhancing the quality of life for residents,” continued Fleming.

With four vehicle lanes incorporated into the first phase and second phase bridges, it is anticipated the new road crossing will provide relief capacity for the Oak Street Bridge and Knight Street Bridge, which will see increased vehicle volumes upon the opening of the new eight-lane replacement crossing of the George Massey Tunnel.

Both bridges over the north and south arms of the Fraser River will provide an alternative route to the George Massey Tunnel and Alex Fraser Bridge. From Highway 99 in Delta, for example, vehicles can reach Richmond, Vancouver, and Burnaby by taking the South Fraser Perimeter Road (Highway 17) to reach the new bridge crossings.

The new Boundary Road Bridge, in particular, also provides post-disaster resiliency and redundancy in the event of an earthquake, tsunami, and/or major flood. This will be the first new modern road bridge between Vancouver and Richmond in more than 50 years; Oak Street Bridge was built in 1957, Knight Street Bridge in 1974, and Arthur Laing Bridge in 1975.

boundary road marine drive vancouver burnaby f

Boundary Road looking south from the intersection with Marine Drive. (Google Maps)

boundary road east 25th avenue vancouver

Boundary Road looking south from the intersection of East 25th Avenue. (Google Maps)

But not everyone is convinced the region should have more road capacity given the environmental impacts, and there are already suggestions a new additional West Coast Express commuter rail line should share the new freight railway corridor between Pacific Central Station near downtown Vancouver and Delta.

“What will actually happen is a phenomenon called induced demand, which means that when you build more roads, you attract more cars. This will result in more traffic, more pollution, and more greenhouse gas emissions, which will have devastating impacts on our climate and air quality,” said Jeff Silvey, the executive director of the Pedal Power Alliance of BC.

“Moreover, building this bridge is a step backward in terms of our efforts to build sustainable and equitable transportation infrastructure. Instead, there should be a second commuter rail line, an expansion of West Coast Express service, on the incredible new freight railway right-of-way.”

While commuter rail is currently not planned, the new north-south arterial road route — part of TransLink’s Major Road Network — will enable new frequent express bus services linking downtown Vancouver and Metrotown with Richmond and Delta.

Given that this project deals with national trade (freight railway) and transborder passenger services (high-speed rail), the provincial government will work with the federal government to secure federal funding to help cover a share of all three phases of the project.

No road tolls are planned, which follows the provincial government’s policy since 2017, when tolls on the Port Mann Bridge and Golden Ears Bridge were dropped.

SkyTrain Canada Line’s North Arm Bridge over the Fraser River is an example of an extradosed bridge. (Shutterstock)

SkyTrain Canada Line’s North Arm Bridge over the Fraser River is an example of an extradosed bridge. (radiofreebc/YouTube screenshot)


Happy April Fools’ Day!

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

+ News
+ Transportation
+ Urbanized
+ April Fools' Day