TransLink cancels plans for Pattullo Bridge seismic upgrades

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Pattullo Bridge / Shutterstock

TransLink has abandoned its plans to commence a major refit of the Pattullo Bridge, which would have included seismic upgrades to keep the structure safe for vehicles to use over the short-term.

$100 million rehabilitation project to upgrade the 78-year-old, four-lane bridge structure was to start in April 2016, with the bridge shut down during weekday nights and weekends during an 18-month-long construction timeline.

The bridge is known for its structural issues given that it has far outlived its original lifespan and is prone to collapse in the event of even a moderate earthquake. There are also other issues revolving around river erosion and the bridge’s poor built design that does not protect the structure from potential ship impacts.

Instead, TransLink will only be performing minimal repairs on the bridge, mainly with the bridge deck, until a new $1 billion replacement bridge can be built. About $25 million will be spent, with the remaining saved going towards the cost of building a new bridge.

The aging structure is inspected every week to ensure the bridge meets minimum short-term structural integrity requirements.

The cost of the planned seismic upgrades for the existing crossing became cost prohibitive given the bridge’s extremely short remaining lifespan. Further design planning revealed that the project is prone to significant cost overruns due to the complexity of the scope being undertaken.

The transportation authority had been moving forward with the costly upgrade even though it plans to demolish the bridge in a few years, immediately after a new crossing is built.

But a replacement bridge has been delayed following the ‘No’ result in the recent Metro Vancouver Transit Plebiscite.

A 0.5 per cent sales tax to help fund the region’s major transportation infrastructure projects would have partially gone towards building a new Pattullo Bridge crossing before the end of the decade. Tolls on the bridge would cover the remainder of the construction and operational costs.

There is no new timeline for the construction of a new replacement crossing. The bridge will likely be a six-lane wide crossing, but the City of New Westminster has made it known that it wants a four-lane crossing that does not increase vehicle volume in its city streets.

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