Pattullo Bridge Backgrounder

The Pattullo Bridge was opened in 1937 and is a key transportation link between Surrey‑Delta and New Westminster-Burnaby. The bridge is 30 years past its expected 50-year lifespan and urgently needs to be replaced by 2023.

The bridge is a critical route for commuters and trucks as more than 80,000 vehicles cross the bridge on a typical weekday. On average, about 28 million vehicles cross the Pattullo Bridge every year.

This bridge is also a key link in the Asia-Pacific Gateway goods movement network as more than one million heavy trucks use the Pattullo every year.

TransLink has spent more than $50 million since 1999 to extend the bridge’s lifespan and keep it functional.


Structural Issues

The bridge was designed based on the 1929 Canadian Engineering Standards Association design code. While the bridge is inspected regularly to ensure it remains functional, it does not meet the current design standards for a new bridge built today:

  • The bridge is susceptible to a moderate earthquake, a major wind event, or if a large vessel were to collide with one of the piers in the river;
  • Concrete and steel structural elements of the bridge are reaching end of life;
  • Concrete from the underside of the deck is falling off in small chunks into containment netting;
  • The south approach concrete bridge deck and piers are deteriorating and would require extensive repairs/rebuilding in the long term; and
  • The river bed is in a constant state of flux and has the potential to undermine one or more of the bridge piers.


Motorist, Cyclist, and Pedestrian Issues

In addition to the numerous structural concerns, the design features of the Pattullo Bridge no longer accommodate the increasing demand of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians into the future:

  • The current bridge deck’s total width for all four lanes is 12.1 m, with no shoulders or additional width around curves. A four-lane bridge built to modern standards would be 19.0 m wide with additional width around curves for trucks;
  • Large trucks often straddle two lanes in the same direction to avoid scraping the curbs or hitting other vehicles;
  • There is no room in the current design to install a centre median barrier to prevent head-on collisions;
  • There is only a single narrow, unprotected sidewalk for pedestrian and cyclist use for travel in both directions;
  • The existing bridge railing design does not meet modern standards. Installing suicide prevention measures on the existing bridge is not feasible due to wind loading and added weight on the span; and
  • At night time the two inside lanes are closed for safety reasons to reduce the risk of crossover accidents.


Safety Inspections

TransLink undertakes a number of inspections and studies to monitor the current state of the Pattullo Bridge:

  • Each year, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure performs a condition inspection of the bridge. A snooper truck is used to examine all parts of the bridge in detail.
  • Every other week, a professional engineering firm (WSP) conducts walk-over inspections of the deck, along with inspections from the ground and catwalk levels.
  • Twice a year, a hydrographic survey is done to see what changes have occurred in the riverbed. If any significant changes are discovered that could compromise the safety of the bridge piers, additional rock is placed around the piers.
  • TransLink also does regular inspections of the bridge railings. If a post has deteriorated, we will repair or replace it on an as needed basis.

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