British Columbia

Queensborough Bridge open in both directions after 12-hour closure

An overnight transformer fire shut down the Queensborough Bridge to all traffic for much of Wednesday.

New Westminster mayor says power to Queensborough should be restored by midnight

The fire under Queensborough Bridge damaged a major transmission line overnight, causing widespread power outages and closing the bridge on Wednesday morning. (Christer Waara/CBC)

An overnight transformer fire underneath the Queensborough Bridge in New Westminster forced the full closure of the bridge to all traffic for nearly 12 hours Wednesday and caused widespread power outages.

The crossing reopened to northbound traffic at around 1:40 p.m., and a southbound lane was opened a little less than an hour later. Pedestrian access is available on the east side of the bridge.

New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté said crews expect power to the Queensborough neighbourhood to be restored by midnight Wednesday. He said there was no structural damage to the bridge.

TransLink said in a written statement that, although the bridge has been reopened, congestion in the area is expected to cause significant delays to bus service in the area for the rest of Wednesday's afternoon commute.

"If you don't need to use that bridge this afternoon, please try and avoid it, because it is still going to have some issues and it's not yet working at full capacity," Coté said.

It is currently unknown how the fire started, but it eventually extinguished itself.

A police officer tapes off the southbound walkway on the Queensborough Bridge. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Fire discovered by accident

According to Sgt. Mike Garbutt with New Westminster Police, officers were conducting a routine patrol around 2:15 a.m. PT on Wednesday when they noticed smoke coming from underneath the bridge and found a "fairly significant" fire burning below the bridge deck.

The fire damaged a major transmission line located under the bridge, causing widespread power outages.

Rod Carle with the New Westminster Electrical Department said between 7,000 and 8,000 people were without power. The city tweeted at 1 p.m. that it would likely take another 10 to 15 hours to restore power to Queensborough.

Bus routes, school days disrupted

Earlier in the day, buses were being detoured away from the bridge, but by 2:30 p.m., they were back on their usual routes. TransLink warned public transit users it might take some time for buses to return to their normal schedules.

On Twitter, the City of New Westminster said all schools in the Queensborough area have been closed as a result of the outage. 

During the morning commute, drivers were advised to take alternate routes into Queensborough through Richmond and Delta. ​

"We realize this is going to impact the rush hour traffic significantly and we're working really hard to get this resolved as quickly as possible," said Garbutt on Wednesday morning.

Starlight Casino has offered free meals to those affected by the power outage.

The power outage caught people in the neighbourhood offguard.

"All of a sudden the power went out," said Ryan Grant, who said he has lived near the bridge for just over four years.

"I came out and talked to the police but they said they didn't have a clue. And then I spoke to another gentleman who said the power's out due to a blown transformer below the bridge."

Resident Ryan Grant was woken up when the power in his home went out after the fire. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

With files from Stephanie Mercier