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Archive for February 4th, 2009

A 10-lane super bridge will replace the aging Port Mann

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The Province.

This is the sort of thing that spoils your lunch. I do not normally read the tab but it was provided by Dave’s Fish and Chips in Steveston. By the way this is a place I heartily recommend. The chips are actually crisp on the outside and are cut from potatoes each day, not from frozen or reconstituted from mash like so many “french fries”. They also have Russel Ales from the excellent small brewery in Surrey.

A new wider bridge is actually a whole new project and quite different to the one that was the subject of an Environmental Assessment – that was going to be a second four lane bridge next to the existing one. You can be sure that they will not go back and revisit the EA. Not that it matters since no matter what the impact they are going to build whatever they like anyway. No process – and certainly no public consultation – was ever going to stand in their way.

Of course anywhere else in the world if you conducted an EA in to a project and then by sleight of hand built a much bigger one there would be protests – or even questions in the house – maybe (shock, horror) lawsuits. Not here. We do not believe in such things.

As Eric Doherty points out on the Livable Blog the existing bridge was refurbished only a few years ago so the statement that the current bridge is in need of an upgrade is simply untrue.

KWH carried out the seismic upgrade and widening for the full length of the bridge and approaches—2,100m total length. Over 3,000 tonnes of structural steel was erected to reinforce the bridge and cantilever the roadway.”

$35m (the cost of the last upgrade) is not chump change and I would expect that sort of work to last much longer than ten years.

Falcon said the design would include dedicated fast-bus lanes, which would enable riders to travel from Langley to Burnaby in 23 minutes.

For the past 20 years there have been no dedicated bus lanes on the Port Mann.

Once again the old saw of repeating  a lie often enough and it becomes accepted as truth. There never have been bus lans in this bridge. Bus service was curtailed when the SkyBridge opened to Scott Road. Just as with the Canada Line, bus services do not compete with SkyTrain so buses from Langley were diverted to the SkyTrain station. Nothing whatever to do with bridge capacity. And the bus that is needed is one from Surrey to Coquitlam – preferably express – and that does not need an exclusive lane on the bridge – just a queue jumper lane on the south side. There is plenty of room to construct that on the hard shoulder – and such lanes are common at other crossings such as the Massey tunnel and the Lions’ Gate bridge.

PREMIER LAUNCHES CONSTRUCTION OF NEW PORT MANN BRIDGE

SURREY – The new Port Mann Bridge will be a single, 10-lane span, Premier Gordon Campbell and Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon announced today as work began on the Port Mann-Highway 1 Project with the first pile for the bridge foundation being driven into the ground.

“The new Port Mann Bridge will be a first-class, state-of-the-art connector to clear traffic congestion on a critical transportation link across the Fraser River,” said Premier Campbell. “The new bridge will give truckers, transit users and commuters a faster, more efficient trip to and from their destinations, significantly cutting travel times and improving the movement of people, goods and services. Construction of this new bridge will also create 8,000 jobs, helping to keep British Columbians working.”

“Right now, congestion on the Port Mann Bridge is approaching 14 hours a day, and it’s harming our economy, our environment and quality of life,” said Falcon. “The Port Mann-Highway 1 Project will help travelers see a time savings of up to 30 per cent due to reduced congestion. This is time better spent at their workplace or with their families.”

The capital cost of the project, including upgrades to 37 km of Highway 1 on either side of the bridge, is approximately $2.46 billion. The total cost, including operating and maintenance, rehabilitation and interest, will be released when the contract is finalized but is expected to be approximately $3.3 billion. Of that, the Province is financing $1.15 billion in the form of a repayable loan, which is being matched by bank financing. The proponent is putting forward their own equity to pay for the remaining $1 billion.

The full cost of the project will be financed through electronic tolls, which will be $3 each way for cars. The government retains control of the rate of the tolls. The project is expected to be complete by 2013.

The new bridge will replace the existing 45-year-old bridge and provide badly needed capacity to meet current and future traffic demand, including a new RapidBus service that will allow commuters to travel all the way from Langley to Burnaby SkyTrain in 23 minutes. Once the new bridge is complete, the old bridge will be removed, saving at least $180 million in maintenance, rehabilitation and seismic upgrades that would have been required. The Port Mann-Highway 1 Project will provide for the first bus service across the Port Mann Bridge in over 20 years. In addition to RapidBus service, the new bridge will be built to accommodate potential light rapid transit at a future date, and it will expand networks for cyclists and pedestrians.

The project also includes widening Highway 1, upgrading interchanges, and improving access and safety from McGill Street in Vancouver to 216th Street in Langley, a distance of approximately 37 km. One lane of highway will be added in each direction west of the new bridge, and two lanes in each direction east of the bridge, one of which will be an HOV lane.

On Jan. 28, 2009, the government reached an agreement-in-principle with Connect BC Development Group for a public-private partnership (P-3) on this project. The Connect BC Development Group team includes the Macquarie Group, Transtoll Inc., Peter Kiewit Sons Co. and Flatiron Constructors Canada Limited. Financial close is expected in early March, at which time the final terms and conditions will be finalized. The Province will provide one-third of the financing, and Connect BC will fund two-thirds.

And now the response from the Wilderness Committee

$3.3 Billion Freeway Bridge a “Super-Sized Mistake”

Surrey, BC — “Premier Campbell’s announcement about replacing the Port Mann Bridge with a $3.3 Billion super bridge is a super-sized mistake,” said Wilderness Committee Healthy Communities Campaigner Ben West.

“Adding more freeway lanes to deal with traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to deal with obesity, it just doesn’t work. If this project is allowed to proceed, it will put taxpayers on the hook for a project that will actually make traffic congestion even worse within a short period of time, and in the process also increase pollution, suburban sprawl and global warming emissions,” said West.

Premier Gordon Campbell and BC Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon held a press conference today at the Port Mann Bridge to un-veil their plans for a new “super bridge”, and the demolition of the existing Port Mann Bridge. They have claimed this massive freeway expansion project will create jobs, reduce congestion and reduce carbon emissions from idling cars stuck in traffic.

“The Port Mann freeway expansion plan would create far fewer jobs than transit investment which is the only way to really deal with congestion. If they were serious about doing something about reducing pollution, slowing global warming and creating jobs, investing in improved public transit is the way to go,” said transportation planner and Livable Region Coalition Spokesperson Eric Doherty.

“They could add a ‘queue jumper’ lane and have buses running across the Port Mann within 6 months. They could also buy about 400 buses, and pay all the operating expenses, including drivers’ salaries and fuel, for 30 years for less money than this freeway expansion will cost,” said Doherty.

The BC Treasury Board estimates that about 3 times as many jobs can be created by investing in public transit than by investing in highway construction. A poll released by the Livable Region Coalition last May shows that two thirds of Lower Mainland residents would support funding for highway expansions being re-directed to public transit in light of concerns about global warming. A report by the Livable Region Coalition shows that carbon emissions would increase by about 30% as the result of the Gateway project.

“The Premier is just dead wrong about this strategy. We are encouraging BC residents to contact the Premier and their MLA to tell them how strongly they feel about re-directing funds to much needed public transit improvements,” said West.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 4, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Gateway

Tagged with

TransLink parking lot rolls over Marpole residents

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The Vancouver Courier does its best to seem concerned about the impact of an expanded employee parking lot at the new operating centre – except it fails to make clear what exactly they are objecting to.

The operating centre is located on the site of a former lumber mill on the north bank of the north arm. The land is zoned industrial – because that it what it has been since European settlement started. Of course that was waterside industry because it needed the river – that is still how log booms are moved from the forest to the mills. In those days much of the product would have moved out in barges too. These days barges are still mainly used for woodchips, and a steady shuttle service of pulp and packaged lumber to and from Vancouver Island.

There are not many places you can put a transit  operating centre (other places use words like garage or depot).  Most people want more bus service but no-one wants to live next to the place where buses are stored overnight and maintained. There is, of course, a lot of traffic, and buses start leaving in the early hours of the morning, before many people are awake, in order to get the early shift workers to their place of employment on time. It is the same thing in reverse late at night.

Some people think that the river banks should be solely for expensive housing – waterfront property always commands a premium. Others think that public access is important – a place for parks and public paths for walking and cycling. And much of the former industrial lands along the water have been redeveloped that way. The whole of the frontage of the former BC Packers plant in Steveston for example – or much of False Creek in Vancouver. There are even people like Terry Slack who think we should do more to restore the river to its natural state in an attempt to protect the ecosystem.

Terry Slack, a retired commercial fisherman and volunteer with the Fraser River Coalition, launched into a crowd-pleasing tirade that strained the boardroom sound system. “This project does nothing for the river. It actually erodes it,” he thundered. “This project respects absolutely nothing!”

He might have pleased the crowd in Marpole, but his views are not at all popular with those who actually make decisions about the river. As long as there is money to be made or freeways that can be built he is ignored – along with the rest of the environmental movement. In BC they used to be influential – now they are regarded as  an annoying fringe group standing in the way of “progress”.

Because this part of Marpole is still largely industrial, the City had no plans to transform the area. The vision that the Marpole waterfront could “be better than False Creek” is not incorporated into any official plan – so not surprisingly the development board allowed the parking lot to proceed.

“Why aren’t more of your staff taking buses?”asked city planner Brent Toderian

Well that’s the interesting question. It actually needs to be addressed not just to the operating centre at Marpole but to all the institutions charged with looking after planning and transportation. For example, City of  Vancouver staff, who get free parking across the street from City Hall.

Translink employees get a free pass – actually two each – one for a family member  (not just a spouse). But many still drive or car pool. I did my very best to commute by transit from Richmond. First to Gateway in Surrey, and later to Metrotown. The simple fact was that this was slow and very inconvenient. And for official business I was expected to use one of the pool cars – since time out of the office being unproductive sitting waiting for a bus was not considered a good use of my time. In fact from Metrotown to my home in Richmond at the end of the day it was quicker to ride my bike. Downhill most of the way, it took 90 minutes. Something the transit system could not achieve then. For years I asked why there was no direct service between Richmond Centre and Metrotown – and one did emerge after I left.

But for operational staff there is a very important constraint. If you are the operator of the first bus in the morning, there is no service to get you to work. Nor is there service for the people who bring in the last buses after they have parked. Indeed outside of the peak periods, which is when all bus service personnel have to travel, the service is scarce. And pay rates for operators may be good, but even so it is not possible to live close to work for many. And staff get moved around between operating centres. Only those with sufficient seniority get to  pick when and where they work.

A better solution would something like  having a few drivers come in early and take out some of the community  shuttles to pick up the rest of the first-shift drivers  which would allow for not building such a large lot. In the days before widespread car ownership that is exactly what happened. Well, I don’t know about here but when I was a bus conductor in Nottingham in the late sixties and had to be on early turns I went and got the “paddy bus” – a circular service through the suburbs to the  depot just to pick up (and drop off) crew. Not available to the public and operated by the maintenance department who had buses to road test. (And actually in those times too we only got a free ride on the bus when in uniform and going to and from shifts.)

The operating times mean that there are only a few hours in the very early morning when no buses run at all. It would not be too difficult to actually schedule a “commuter coach” type service – since it is known where staff live and what times they need to be at work. In fact I advanced just such a service to the airport authority when they were facing a similar shortage of staff parking spaces. The airport starts work before the transit system is up and running, so regular transit does not work for a lot the people who work there. But there are companies who need to bring coaches into Vancouver every day from their garages in places like Delta. Any revenue for what is currently a “dead head” run would be welcome, I would have thought. The idea died when YVR discovered that if they abandoned federal parking standards and used commercial ones, capacity of the exiting  employee lots could be doubled.

As usual, our system suffers because of the absence of “joined up thinking” and a slew of institutional arrangements which separate out responsibilities. There is also the ” we ‘ve always done it this way” argument which seems to win most times. All sorts of creative possibilities – about the journey to work and many other issues – have been around for a long time but very few stand up to the current mind set. Since we mostly own cars and like their convenience – and since many of the most senior people get both a company car and a preferential parking spot – parking at work is a very delicate issue indeed. I speak as one who once suggested that very senior civil servants should not have the privilege of parking on Horse Guards’ Parade. A career limiting suggestion I must confess – but one that was also adopted after I left.

And yes when I go to work – graveyard shifts at weekends in very out of the way places – I drive too.

(Thanks to Rick Green for the idea and some thought on this item)

Written by Stephen Rees

February 4, 2009 at 10:02 am

Posted in parking, transit