The Pattullo Bridge connects Surrey to New Westminster. (File photo)

Pattullo Bridge turns 80 years old today

Surrey mayor stresses how urgently a replacement is needed

SURREY — The Pattullo Bridge celebrates its 80th birthday today.

The crossing was constructed on Nov. 15, 1937.

“Happy birthday Ms. Pattullo,” said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner. “You were constructed to last a half century and you’re now 30 years past that today.

“You’re entitled to a full and urgent replacement and that is my birthday wish for you today.”

Hepner said the region deserves this infrastructure improvement and in order to meet the timeline for replacement, construction and provincial funding decisions need to be made now.

Initially, the premise was that tolls would help pay for the replacement bridge. The NDP have since eliminated tolls, leaving uncertainty around how the new crossing will be funded.

“We have an expectation for the province to fund (the bridge),” Hepner said. “Clearly mobility pricing will also play into options. For procurement to advance, we need that provincial decision.”

In July, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner cut her head open during a tour of the Pattullo.

Joking that she “took one for the team,” Hepner said it’s “critical funding is secured this year” in order to have a replacement by 2023.

“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 at the time.

See more: Surrey Mayor cuts head open during tour of Pattullo Bridge

The media tour on July 14 aimed to highlight the deterioration of the 80-year-old Pattullo Bridge ahead of a weekend closure, which saw it close to allow for crews to repair the deck on the south end of the bridge.

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 were a big issue, and pointed out a post base that needs to be replaced. Five had to be replaced.

“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.”

READ: Pattullo could close by 2022 if not replaced: Surrey’s mayor

Road markers and reflectors are also upgraded regularly.

“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.”

The tour even revealed holes in the sidewalk of the bridge, which has since been repaired.

“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.

Bob Moore, construction manager for the Pattullo Bridge rehabilitation, during the tour in July.

“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 July 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…. To stay on schedule we need to put this project out for commercial procurement by October,” he said in July. “There’s a number of steps along the way but that means its fairly urgent to get the final financing plan put in plan.”

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.

READ: TransLink eyes Ottawa transportation funds for Pattullo Bridge replacement



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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