Mayor Linda Hepner fell and cut her head during a walking tour of the Pattullo Bridge Friday. (Photo: Amy Reid)

Surrey Mayor cuts head open during tour of Pattullo Bridge

TransLink says it is ‘critical’ funding is secured this year to replace the 80-year-old crossing

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said she “took one for the team” after falling and cutting her head open during a tour of the aging Pattullo Bridge on Friday.

“I was walking on the sidewalk and I fell into the handrail which was lucky because had I fallen the other direction it would’ve been in traffic,” she said after walking off the 80-year-old crossing.

The goal of the tour was to show “why it’s critical funding is secured this year in order to replace the 80-year-old bridge by 2023,” according to a TransLink release.

“There could not be a better message that I took one for the team to show that this bridge needs to be replaced,” said Hepner of her tumble.

The media tour Friday aimed to highlight the deterioration of the 80-year-old Pattullo Bridge ahead of this weekend’s closure, which will see it closed from from 9 p.m. on Friday to 5 a.m. on Monday to allow for crews to repair the deck on the south end of the bridge.

Hepner said in her first conversation with Premier-Designate John Horgan she will bring up the bridge.

”I know they know the urgency,” she added. “I’m hoping we can have a plan of action very soon.”

Bob Moore (Pattullo Bridge rehab construction manager) giving a media tour of damage along the aging Pattullo Bridge today.

Posted by Surrey Now-Leader Newspaper on Friday, July 14, 2017

During the upcoming weekend closure, many repairs will be made.

Bob Moore, construction manager for the Pattullo Bridge rehabilitation, led media along the aging bridge as traffic flew by and the bridge rumbled.

Potholes resulting from the particularly cold winter are the main issue. Though they have been patched, the upcoming closure is required to better repair the underlying concrete deck.

Moore stopped to point out a post base that needs to be replaced. Five will be replaced, he added.

“These are the original ones from the 1930s that have finally got to the point where they’re not structurally sufficient… and then there’s a number of other issues we’re dealing with (this weekend), warranty issues with the rehabilitated deck…. sealing the deck,” he explained.

Moore said every 18 to 24 months, a structural consultant inspects the railings which are still the originals from the 1930s.

“A lot of people ask us why don’t you just replace it, why keep repairing it? Well we’ve got lead-based paint in here so if we replace the whole railing system we’d have to fully contain it…. It would be a very expensive operation.”

Road markers and reflectors are also part of the weekend’s upgrades.

“One of the safety upgrades that we do normally, is if you look at the yellow curbs on the side of the bridge – they’re partly yellow and partly black… typically within 24 hours (of painting them), 50 per cent of that curb line has got tire rubber on it. So within 24 hours that’s been impacted by the traffic. It’s an indication of the geometry of the bridge and the tightness of the lanes. There’s just not enough room there.”

Moore also pointed to a hole in the sidewalk near a post, which will be repaired this weekend.

“This damage here, this is the old original sidewalk from the 1930s. This was probably done with rebar…. The rebar has rusted, causing the sidewalk to break up that’s why you have the damage there.”

But there are much larger concerns than railings and sidewalk repairs, Moore explained.

“The stuff we see physically, that’s one thing, but the bigger threat is what we can’t see, which is in the river,” he said. “One of the things is the river, this is a really dynamic river at this location. The actual river bed is always moving…. so twice a year we go in and we do survey of the river to determine what impact it’s having on the bridge. And about 10 years ago based on the survey we had to come in and put big rocks around a couple of the piers to stop them getting undermined by the river. There’s been times when the river bed has actually moved by up to 20 feet in this location. To add to that problem, you’ve got the rail bridge that’s very close to us…. and the two are connected underneath. Anything we do to our bridge around the piers affects the rail bridge and vice versa.”

Seismic and wind load issues are also concerns.

“Those are all structural issues that can’t get resolved by replacing railings and things.”

After the media tour, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said there’s a tight timeline to get the replacement bridge complete for 2023.

“We’ve got the design all set, we’ve worked through both the cities of New Westminster and Surrey on the design of the approach ramps to the bridge. So we’re ready to go. We’re really anxious next week to get started with the conversations with the new provincial government and put a full financing package together. To stay on schedule we need to put this project out for commercial procurement by October.”

He acknowledged there’s a tight timeline.

“There’s a number of steps along the way but that means its fairly urgent to get the final financing plan put in plan.”

The premise was that that replacement bridge be tolled, but the NDP have vowed to eliminate tolls.

What does that mean?

“We obviously have to have a conversation with the government,” said Desmond. “We’ve had informal conversations, and clearly the tolling policy that was part of the NDP campaign, it affects how we finance the bridge. That’s why it’s all the more urgent we have that conversation. I’m confident the new government understands the urgency of this project.”

Desmond said replacement cost is not yet known until a full business case is done, which is expected to be done by August.

“Here we are near the end of July, just getting a new government, (we will) negotiate with the new government for the next six weeks or so on the financing plan, approve the business plan…. go out to procurement in October, ideally then we’d have a bridge replaced by 2023.”

Since 1999, TransLink has spent more than $50 million to extend the bridge’s life span and is currently completing preliminary design work for a replacement.

It’s estimated that everyday more than 80,000 vehicles cross the bridge, which was built in 1937.

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The Pattullo Bridge connecting Surrey with New Westminster is 80 years old and needs replacing (Photo: Surrey Now-Leader)

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