Crews began work Thursday morning to replace the Little Campbell trestle bridge in South Surrey.
The work got underway at 6 a.m. – under the watchful eye of Semiahmoo First Nation members, who viewed the proceedings from one side of the river.
The bulk of the $2-million replacement job wrapped up just after 3 p.m. The first trains tested the new, 80-foot steel span at about 11 p.m., with operations back on track shortly after.
BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said Monday that trains will operate at a reduced speed until the welding of track joints is completed later this week.
“Once the welds are complete… we’ll pick the speed up to normal,” he told Peace Arch News.
The rail bridge – which sits on Semiahmoo First Nation land – has long a subject of concern due to its age and deteriorating condition. It has been earmarked for replacement since 2011.
BNSF structures manager Alan Bloomquist said the railway has been inspecting the aging span every 30 days, ever since Transport Canada examined the 79-tonne structure more than a year ago and “didn’t like what they saw.”
While some repairs were made along the way – including replacement of timber shims with steel and replacement of braces and some bearings – it was deemed safe for train traffic every time, he said.
Earlier last week, Semiahmoo councillor Joanne Charles told Peace Arch News the band had concerns, and was consulting with Aboriginal Affairs about the project; as well, that she was left in the dark about any plans for mitigation in the event of a mishap.
“What if it’s so old it crumbles when they try to lift it?” she said.
Melonas said Thursday that “the entire plan was designed to respect” the band’s property.
“Any type of impact whatsoever, we will take full responsibility to ensure their land was in the condition it was in before the process was started,” he said.
Monday, he confirmed the project went off without a hitch.
“No issues whatsoever, the whole process went as designed,” he said.
Thursday, Charles could be seen recording the replacement effort.
She could not be reached for comment Monday.
White Rock resident Greg Smith turned out early to take in the process.The work was the culmination of a year’s planning, and carried out by Ontario-based Western Mechanical and Sema Bridge Structures. The new span, weighing 100 tonnes, was built by Sema in Mont Joli, Que., and shipped in pieces to a staging yard in Blaine for assembly.
“I love trains, so it’s fun to watch,” he said. “As a child, I always wanted to be a railway engineer.”
Western Mechanical project manager Rob Doucet said late Thursday morning, after the old span had been removed by a remote-controlled gantry crane, that the work was anticipated to finish ahead of schedule.