Even as British Columbian politicians discuss union contracts surrounding a community benefits proposal, leaders of the planned Pattullo Bridge replacement say the $1.4-billion project remains on budget and ready for a summer 2019 construction start.

The contracts under discussion would ensure pay raises for a new Community Benefits Agreement proposal that prioritizes the hiring of underserved populations. The new program could add $100 million to the cost of the bridge, a figure the government says was already built into the stated project costs.

As contractors look forward to bidding on portions of the project, the new four-lane bridge will have wider lanes, walking and cycling lanes separated from traffic and better network connections on either side of the crossing to better serve traffic moving into New Westminster or Surrey. Design will also allow future expansion to six lanes, although government models don’t show that need in the foreseeable future.

The request for qualifications for a contractor to design build and finance the project closes in September. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will select up to three respondent teams to participate in the next phase of the competitive selection process, which is the request for proposal stage. The replacement project will be delivered, owned and operated by the B.C. government.

Plans call for the new span across the Fraser River to start construction in summer 2019 and have the new Pattullo Bridge open in 2023. Once open, the existing bridge will be removed. Originally opened in 1937, the Pattullo Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in the metro Vancouver area. Designed for a 50-year life, it has exceeded that goal by 30 years. It carries about 70,000 daily crossings, but no longer meets wind or seismic load design standards and government reports say it has only five years of life remaining before it is no longer usable.

The new bridge will come funded entirely by the province.

Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb