Workers are on track to start major construction on the new replacement Pattullo Bridge later this year.
Following the completion of the procurement process early this year, a refined design for the new $1.38-billion bridge, revealed by the provincial government this week, shows two in-river piers, which is a reduction from the six piers of the existing 1937-built, four-lane bridge.
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This design with a single 170-metre-tall suspension tower and fewer piers will result in reduced construction activities in the river, safer navigation for vessels, and a reduced environmental footprint. The tower is taller than the Port Mann Bridge by seven metres.
The new structure will be roughly 100 metres north and upstream of the existing bridge, on the other side of the existing railway swing bridge. It will have four wider travel lanes for vehicles — with a concrete barrier separating travel directions — and pathways for pedestrians and cyclists on both sides of the bridge. Suicide prevention fencing will be built into the structure.
In the future, the bridge can be expanded to six travel lanes for vehicles by converting the bridge deck space for pedestrians and cyclists into an additional travel lane in each direction.
Under this configuration, a cantilevered deck would be added to the sides of the bridge to create new replacement pathways for pedestrians and cyclists.
For the current project scope, existing road infrastructure on both ends of the bridge will see some updates and improvements.
On the New Westminster end, this includes new vehicle on- and off-ramps connecting both directions of the bridge to and from East Columbia Street.
Three overpasses for pedestrians and cyclists will be added in this interchange area to enhance the regional Central Valley Greenway and create a new connection for the future Agnes Greenway.
The new Agnes-Royal overpass will be a unique 10-metre-wide bridge deck with landscaping.
On the other side at the Surrey end, there will be a direct vehicle off-ramp from the bridge’s southbound direction and onto the westbound direction of Highway 17 (South Fraser Perimeter Road). This includes a new path that connects walkers and cyclists to Bridge Road, which will be widened into a two-way road for vehicles and a multi-use path.
Further down on Highway 17, west of the bridge, there will be a rebuild of a portion of the highway to create an overpass at Old Yale Road, removing the existing traffic light-controlled intersection.
The bridge’s main route transitioning into King George Boulevard will see very minimal changes, with the existing road infrastructure towards Surrey City Centre largely retained.
These road infrastructure improvements at both ends of the bridge have been significantly downsized, compared to the early concepts of the replacement project by TransLink, which called for a new interchange system on the Surrey end that removes existing traffic signals and creates multiple overpass connections to Highway 17.
The provincial government has selected Fraser Crossing Partners — a joint partnership between Acciona Infrastructure Canada and Aecon Group Inc. — to design, build, and provide partial construction financing.
Construction is now scheduled to start in Fall 2020, beginning with the foundation of the in-river piers and suspension tower. Bridge deck construction is anticipated to begin in late 2021.
When the new bridge opens in 2023, work will begin on the demolition of the existing structure, which is in a precarious state. It could collapse from a modest earthquake, powerful wind storm, or even a ship strike.
Given the severity of the issues even over the interim, an advance seismic and wind warning system was installed on the bridge early this year as a safety measure for the bridge’s remaining short life.
TransLink owns and maintains the existing bridge, but the new bridge will be owned and maintained by the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
The bridge replacement project was previously a TransLink spearheaded and funded project, but the provincial government decided to take it over to allow the public transit authority to better focus on its transit expansion priorities.