The Pattullo Bridge connecting Surrey with New Westminster is closed today and could be closed for as long as six weeks, TransLink said after a wooden trestle leading onto the aging span was damaged in a suspicious fire Sunday.
The bridge, which is used daily by 80,000 motorists, is expected to remain closed until structural engineers determine whether the damaged span is safe enough to drive.
A worst-case scenario, said TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie, would require the entire wooden section to be knocked down and replaced – a process that could close the bridge for up to six weeks.
“It was quite fierce,” said Hardie of the fire that started around 3 a.m. “There were flames shooting up from underneath the bridge on both sides of the roadway.”
At mid-morning yesterday, smoke and steam still billowed from beneath the bridge as a pair of firefighters worked to putout a smouldering section between the wood trestle and the asphalt of King George Highway.
“The preliminary inspection is that there is significant damage to the wooden trestle at the south end of the bridge,” Hardie said.
A meeting was held yesterday afternoon to look at traffic management and transit options for commuters.
In addition to forcing tens of thousands of cars onto the Port Mann and Alex Fraser bridges, the closure could impact trauma patients on the Surrey side who would normally be taken to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.
Kristy Hillen, a spokeswoman for the B.C. Ambulance Service, said additional ambulances would be added to the Surrey side as the potential impact of the bridge closure was analyzed.