Lions Gate, Alex Fraser bridge engineers enter retirement

Peter Buckland and Peter Taylor have had a hand in most of the bridges used in the Lower Mainland, and have also worked on others around the world, including the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Peter Buckland and Peter Taylor have spent 40 years building bridges, including the U.S.'s Golden Gate

The Lions Gate Bridge is one of many iconic bridges that Peter Taylor and Peter Buckland worked on at some point in their 43-year career. (The Canadian Press)

Anyone who's driven around the Lower Mainland is sure to have gone over a bridge that Peter Buckland and Peter Taylor helped build.

The two engineers founded their Vancouver-based engineering firm in 1972, and have had a hand in designing, building or retrofitting the Alex Fraser, The Port Mann, the Lions Gate and the Golden Ears bridges, as well as other bridges around the world.

They've worked on most of the bridges in Montreal, and several in the U.S., including the Golden Gate in San Francisco.

Peter Buckland (left) and Peter Taylor (right) have retired after more than 40 years designing and building bridges. (Gavin Fisher/CBC)

After more than 40 years, Buckland and Taylor are crossing over from bridge building to retirement.

"I enjoyed every day at work, it was 43 years of fun," Taylor told On The Coastguest host Gloria Macarenko.

"I'm quite happy now to move on to other interests."

The original Port Mann

Taylor said that working on major bridges is "every civil engineer's dream", and that the original Port Mann bridge was one of his first major projects.

The Port Mann Bridge as seen in 1964 is shown in this archival photograph. (Surrey City Archives)

He said he was sorry to see it come down.

"It was an iconic bridge in that it was the last riveted bridge in B.C., designed by hand. It was the first orthotropic steel deck in North America so it was innovative, and it was the first bridge around here erected by computer. So it was a real transition."

Buckland said there should be a balance between a bridge's appearance and cost.

"When you've got people sleeping in alleyways and you've got all sorts of social needs ... I think it's totally immoral to go blasting money on something that's big and grand."

Lions Gate deck rebuilt

However Buckland added that it's possible to make "a very elegant bridge that's very effective."

He said both the Alex Fraser and Golden Ears are examples of brdiges where a low bid for the bridge design won out, and the results were still "elegant" bridges.

The Alex Fraser Bridge, which spans the Fraser River, was the longest cable-stayed bridge when it opened in 1986. (The Canadian Press)

"You can have both. You can have a very elegant bridge, and save the money for things that society really needs to save money for."

Favourite bridges

Buckland said the rebuilding of the Lions Gate bridge — where the main bridge deck was replaced in 2000-2001 — is his favourite project.

"That was a very ingenious scheme, it was extremely difficult and we made it work. There were many other things about it, like studying traffic loading, and wind loading, and aerodynamic stability and all sort of things...but they were all new, and we published a lot of papers on the research that we'd done on that."

He said the Lions Gate's elegance is due to the fact that it is narrow, so it looks tall.

Taylor said his favourite project in Canada was the Alex Fraser, which, when it first opened in 1986, was the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world.

"The directions we got...were, 'Hey boys, take your time and get it right.' And we did. That was a real privilege. It wasn't a rush. We had lots of time ... and we came in 30 per cent under budget with a very elegant bridge."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Engineers who worked on Lions Gate and many other Lower Mainland bridges enter retirement

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