For some time now, drivers traveling through a stretch of Highway 17, the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR), north of Burns Bog in Delta, have been seeing — and certainly feeling — undulating bumps on the roadway.
- New interchanges coming to Highway 91/17 and Deltaport Way
- $235-million in funding announced to reduce congestion on Highway 1 through Langley
- $70-million counterflow lane on the Alex Fraser Bridge to open in 2019
- 18 bridge and tunnel options considered for George Massey crossing project
Sections of the four-lane highway were built over an old landfill, and there has been speculation this has been the cause of the latest warping and distortions. But according to the BC Ministry of Transportation, it is not aware of any garbage burial sites in the locations where there are bumps.
“The Ministry is aware that some sections of the Highway 17 corridor are experiencing post-construction settlement and, while it’s not unusual to have areas that require time for soil to settle, this creates ‘bumps’ in the pavement surface that need repairing,” said the Ministry in an email to Daily Hive.
As well, “the bumps are localized and related to soft soils, not pH levels” as a result of landfill leachates — the contaminated fluid that percolates through landfills as a result of liquids in the garbage and from outside water.
“Some of this settlement was anticipated as the project had geotechnical challenges with the soil composition along the corridor,” which is wedged by the bog to the south and the Fraser River to the north.
Furthermore, the roadway was designed to “mitigate any settlement issues as much as possible,” and it is anticipated the area will continue to slowly settle for another three to five years.
Once the affected areas fully settle and stabilize, planners will begin to establish a permanent solution to the issue.
At this early stage, as the design and extent of the permanent repairs have not been determined, there is no estimate on the cost of the work to come.
The Ministry says its staff and the highway’s private operator are continuously monitoring the highway and conducting interim repairs, with the most recent repair — a 200-metre-long span of the SFPR over the closed landfill site just west of the Highway 91 and Highway 17 intersection — costing about $600,000 in November 2018.
Half of the $1.26-billion cost of building the SFPR fell under a fixed-price public-private model; to carry out much of the project, the provincial government selected Fraser Transportation Group Partnership (FTGP) — a private consortium comprised of engineering and construction giants, including Dragados Canada, Ledcor, and ACS Infrastructure Canada.
The construction scope also included the closure of five historical landfill sites along the corridor between Tilbury and Sunbury, and the remediation of these contaminated sites, including one site that is now useable for industrial purposes.
Additionally, FTGP has a 20-year contract to operate, maintain, and rehabilitate the roadway.
Despite the issues, the Ministry maintains that the “route remains safe to drive as long as motorists are driving to conditions of the road and the posted speed limit” of 80 km/hr.
The SFPR, completed in 2013, has a length of about 40 kms between the the Highway 17/Deltaport Way interchange in Delta and the Golden Ears Bridge in Maple Ridge. With end-to-end travel times reduced by 30 to 60 minutes, the highway was primarily constructed to serve the growing container truck traffic at Deltaport, and improve regional access to BC Ferries’ Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal.
The Ministry says the SFPR in 2018 saw an average traffic volume of about 29,000 vehicles per day near 80th Street in Delta.
Dammy Ogunseitan, a spokesperson for the City of Delta, was unable to comment on condition of the SFPR, but he said the “additional provincial highway has been beneficial for the entire region.”
Future improved connections to the SFPR
Aside from future permanent repairs to the warped sections, the provincial government is moving forward with plans to make other enhancements to the SFPR.
The upcoming $245-million Highway 91/17 and Deltaport Way Upgrade Project will replace traffic-light controlled highway intersections — between SFPR and Highway 91 Connector, and between Highway 91 and Nordel Way — with interchanges that incrementally turn the SFPR into freeway standard.
There will also be various other improvements, including intersection upgrades at SFPR and 80th Street, on-ramp improvements at Deltaport Way and 27B Avenue, and 27B Avenue widening between Deltaport Way and 41B Street to improve access to Canada Border Service Agency’s container examination facility.
Further upstream at where the SFPR meets the Pattullo Bridge, as part of the $1.4-billion bridge replacement project, there will be a new road ramp connection between the bridge’s southbound direction and the SFPR’s westbound direction. No direct connection exists with the current ageing bridge.
Early plans for the new bridge project also included a flyover interchange between Scott Road and King George Boulevard, and a northward Scott Road extension to establish a new way of connecting with the SFPR. However, both of these features have been axed in the project’s final iteration.
If all goes as planned, both the Highway 91/17 and Deltaport Way Upgrade Project and the new Pattullo Bridge project will commence construction later this year and reach completion by 2023.
Initial plan for new Pattullo Bridge connections in Surrey:
Final plan for new Pattullo Bridge connections in Surrey: