SOUTH SURREY â€” After 93 years it’s hard to look good, and after a serving as a crossing for nearly 100 years, the Little Campbell River rail bridge certainly wasn’t pretty.
But that all changed Thursday (Nov. 20) when a crew of 35 pulled the aged crossing from the ground and put a brand-new 80-foot steel span in its place.
Starting early Thursday morning, the team arrived on site via the rail line and proceeded to unbolt the aged bridge. Using a rail-based crane, they then proceeded to lift the rusted structure from its longtime home.
Gus Melonas, spokesman for rail operator Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), said the new crossing was put in without incident and was completed later that afternoon. Rail traffic had been suspended during work and resumed that night.
"So we ran the first train through after 10 p.m. last night – it was the Amtrak coming up from Seattle to Vancouver and it was all good," he said, adding a mixed-freight train crossed later in the night.
Melonas said there were some final welds to be completed on the new crossing, and until those are done next week, all rail traffic is being reduced to 25 miles per hour (MPH). Typical speeds over the bridge are 30 MPH for freight trains and 50 MPH for passenger trains.
"We’re going to eliminate track joints so that the rail is seamless," he explained of the welds.
The $2-million replacement came after years of concerns being raised by surrounding communities, including the City of White Rock, residents in South Surrey and members of Semiahmoo First Nation.
Perry Adebar, a professor at UBC’s department of civil engineering and a South Surrey resident, raised concerns last year after finding parts of the bridge rusted-through in some areas.
"I’ve never seen this level of corrosion in any structure and you certainly wouldn’t expect to see this kind of damage in a structure that’s being used every day," he told the Now at the time.
Compounding concerns were the increasing frequency of dangerous materials being transported along the route, which have included goods like hydrochloric acid, chlorine and petroleum distillates.
But with the new bridge now in place, Melonas is hoping those fears will be eased.
"The bridge is operating as designed, flawlessly," he said. "This in an investment by BNSF to allow efficient and safe movement of both freight and passenger between Canada and the U.S."