Work on a $1.4-billion replacement for the aging Pattullo Bridge will get underway this year.
Premier John Horgan and provincial officials gathered at Westminster Pier Park on Monday afternoon to announce the province had awarded a construction contract to Fraser Crossing Partners.
“We expect construction to begin this season, that being spring/summer,” Horgan said. “Just in speaking with the partners, they want to get going right away. There are windows when it comes to salmon, for work above the river. There is work on either side of the approaches that can begin almost immediately. That is up to the partners.”
The new bridge will have pedestrian and cyclist lanes that are separated from traffic. It will have four wider travel lanes for vehicles, with the potential to expand to six lanes in the future if required.
“Thousands of people, in fact 68,000 commuters, use this bridge behind us every single day,” Horgan said. “They are not using Kramer-sized lanes from Seinfeld, they are using lanes from the 1920s.”
The replacement for the aging Pattullo Bridge has been in the works for years. When a six-lane bridge was being contemplated in 2014, members of city council visited other Lower Mainland councils to garner support for a four-lane design.
“Safer, easier, toll-free commutes is what our government is dedicated to,” Horgan said. “Dedicated walking and cycling lanes will be an integral part of this bridge, and overall better connections within the Lower Mainland.”
In January, the Surrey Board of Trade released a report indicating the majority of its members who responded to a survey want a six-lane bridge on opening day.
Horgan said “a four-lane bridge with four real lanes” is an appropriate way to start, but the bridge has the capacity to expand to six lanes, or five lanes with counterflow, in the future. He said it was “paramount” to consider the wishes of the community in order to get buy-in for the project.
New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy said the construction of a replacement for the Pattullo Bridge is “great news” for the entire Lower Mainland, but especially New Westminster. She said the wider lanes will make travel between New West and Surrey much safer.
“It’s scary – every single time,” she said about driving over the current Pattullo Bridge. “If there is a truck, of course, it takes up the entire two lanes. As you are coming down the bridge, even the turns when you are coming off it – it is dangerous. Everybody knows it’s dangerous."
Darcy said the bridge-replacement project also addresses seismic issues related to the aging Pattullo Bridge.
“We have just had to invest some new money for seismic and wind warnings, just in order to preserve the life of it until we can replace it,” she said. “That’s just to ensure people are safe in the meantime.”
The Pattullo Bridge replacement project is being delivered under the province’s Community Benefits Agreements, which prioritizes hiring local workers, including Indigenous peoples, women, people with disabilities and under-represented groups who are qualified to do the work.
“We are very excited about that,” Horgan said. “Safer, easier commutes for people in the region is a high priority, but making sure that that safer, easier commute is built by local people, training the next generation of workers, is fundamental to this project.”
Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said the Pattullo Bridge is a crucial piece of infrastructure for the Lower Mainland and for the provincial trade network.
“The new bridge will have wider lanes, allowing for trucks and vehicles to share the road in a much safer way. It will be a welcome break from the tight squeeze that is already there,” she said.
Trevena said the bridge is being built within an area of “tremendous importance” to Indigenous groups and the province is committed to working together in the next phase of this project. She said every worker on the project will complete Indigenous culture training, as reconciliation is at the heart of the province’s work.