TransLink is abandoning most of its plan to rehabilitate the 80-year-old Pattullo Bridge and will instead do minimal repairs in hopes a replacement bridge can be built as soon as possible.
It was to start a two-year $100-million upgrade next spring to replace the bridge deck and perform the first phase of seismic strengthening.
But TransLink officials have been warned the seismic portion now looks much more challenging, with a price tag that was set to soar, if it could be done at all.
“It’s cost-prohibitive,” TransLink infrastructure management and engineering vice-president Fred Cummings said Friday.
“We can’t continue to spend money because we don’t have a technical solution to extend the life of the bridge.”
TransLink will proceed to replace the bridge deck with a concrete one and shelve the multi-phase seismic work.
It will mean less short-term disruption for drivers.
Work is expected to take place over about five months next summer, instead of 18 months, and TransLink expects to keep two lanes open at all times, without any of the complete bridge closures previously forecast.
The bridge, which is 30 years past its 50-year design life, remains vulnerable to being knocked out of service by a moderate earthquake, river erosion or a ship collision.
How long the existing Pattullo can stay in service before it must be closed is uncertain.
“On the outside, probably 10 years,” Cummings estimated, adding it depends how rapidly the bridge deteriorates.
TransLink staff monitor it daily and conduct detailed weekly inspections.
He said it’s urgent to solve the question of how to pay for the Pattullo replacement as soon as possible.
The bridge replacement was one of the projects that would have immediately advanced had voters not rejected a 0.5 per cent sales tax increase to fund transportation in this year’s plebiscite.
But many observers expected the new bridge would get built regardless of the vote.
Tolls are expected to cover much of the region’s share of the $1-billion cost of the new Pattullo, with one-third each coming from the provincial and federal governments, but there’s still a $90 million expected shortfall in toll revenue over 10 years that must come from somewhere else.
TransLink officials say chopping the rehabilitation spending from $100 million down to $25 million means the other $75 million can be put towards the replacement project.
Even if the remaining funding is quickly found, the earliest a new bridge could be open is five years – after two years of design and procurement, and three years of construction.
The change in the Pattullo strategy was outlined in a presentation to the TransLink board, in its first open public meeting since promising to end its policy of making all decisions behind closed doors.
The Pattullo Bridge is living on borrowed time. TransLink has concluded it can’t be seismically upgraded and should get only minimal repairs until a new bridge can be built. Black Press file