Pattullo Bridge replacement on track, Surrey council hears, but critics still want more lanes

Click to play video: 'Pattullo Bridge replacement slated to open in 2024'
Pattullo Bridge replacement slated to open in 2024
The new Pattullo Bridge is on track for completion in 2024, but business leaders in Surrey are calling for six lanes to be open to vehicle traffic on day one, instead of four as currently planned. Aaron McArthur reports – Feb 15, 2023

Construction on the nearly $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge replacement project remains on track for a 2024 completion, Surrey city council heard Wednesday.

But a group representing businesses in Surrey, B.C., says the project, as currently designed, still won’t meet the transportation needs of the growing region.

Like the more than 80-year-old span it is replacing, the new Pattullo Bridge will have four vehicle lanes.

The bridge, which will connect Surrey and New Westminster, is also being built with two active transportation lanes for walking and cycling, which could be converted in the future to accommodate cars. In that situation, new active transportation lanes would be added to the outside of the bridge with cantilevered supports.

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The Surrey Board of Trade (SBoT) wants those lanes to be put into service for vehicles immediately.

“We’re still growing in Surrey by 1,200 to 1,400 people a month, in the Metro Vancouver region we’re expecting another 1.3 million people — it doesn’t really make sense to replace a four-lane bridge with another four-lane bridge,” SBoT president and CEO Anita Huberman told Global News.

“We know the City of New Westminster doesn’t want extra traffic in their city, but we all have to work together as a region in order to move people and goods efficiently and effectively.”

Click to play video: 'New Pattullo Bridge to use old snow removal system?'
New Pattullo Bridge to use old snow removal system?

The potential for added traffic volume has been a point of heated debate dating back to early discussions about the bridge replacement.

New Westminster mayor Patrick Johnstone said that even if the bridge was built with six lanes, the road network on both sides couldn’t handle the added traffic.

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“I don’t think the road capacity actually exists on either side to deal with a six-lane bridge,” he said.

“Part of the decision to not preclude further expansion to six lanes is to build the bridge to support it but there is still going to need to be significant work on both sides of the bridge to deal with that extra traffic.”

Johnstone said the current four-lane design was selected after extensive community consultation and in an agreement between the cities of Surrey and New Westminster along with TransLink.

Expanding from the current four-lane design to the six-lane configuration can’t proceed without an agreement between those three partners, he said.

Johnstone added that it has been under a decade since the capacity of the Port Mann Bridge was doubled and that an additional counter-flow lane has since been added to the Alex Fraser Bridge. Meanwhile, he said, expansion of transit capacity has lagged.

Click to play video: 'Construction timeline for new Pattullo Bridge updated'
Construction timeline for new Pattullo Bridge updated

“We need to discuss the capacity of moving people across the region, not just moving cars across the region,” he said. “But yes, there is a three-party agreement in place, and if it can be demonstrated that that is the need of the region, of course we are partners in that discussion.”

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Huberman said stalling on the six-lane option could constrain future regional growth and send the wrong signal to international investors.

She said issues about the insufficient road network on both sides of the bridge should have been dealt with at the planning stage.

In the meantime, construction on the bridge continues, with a representative from the province telling Surrey city councillors Wednesday that all pile installations for the bridge’s 12 main foundations were completed late last year.

Construction on the bridge tower is “well underway,” council heard, and scheduled for completion later this year.

Eight offramps are now under construction, and bridge deck girder installation and early works for the demolition of the old Pattullo Bridge are set to begin this spring.

The bridge was originally slated for completion in 2023, but the province pushed that estimate back by one year in 2021 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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