Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

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

with 20 comments

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.


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

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20 Responses

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  1. History repeats itself.

    As I recall the Alex Fraser Bridge was supposed to have two lanes for transit, but that lasted a grand total of 6 months.

    It is colossal win for the roads lobby and what is so perverse, the real decrepit bridge, the one that is a road killer, the Puttallo Bridge, remains untouched – except for new 20 metre section.

    Malcolm J.

    February 4, 2009 at 3:20 pm

  2. Quote:

    “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.”

    It begs the question, what is a second class bridge?

    State of the art, rapidly becomes dated; I guess Campbell wanted use every cliche possible.

    “the new bridge will be built to accommodate potential light rapid transit at a future date…”

    1) Light Rapid Transit is beraucarcy speak for SkyTrain.
    2) At over $100 million/km., it will not happen in my lifetime.
    3) Unless the tracks are placed during construction, they will never take away roadspace for ‘rail’ transit. This is more bureacracy speak, George Orwell would have had a field day!

    Malcolm J.

    February 4, 2009 at 6:48 pm

  3. Oops, sorry for the spelling errors, hit the wrong button, before I checked with the speller.

    Malcolm J.

    February 4, 2009 at 6:49 pm

  4. This makes me furious. To think we will have a 10 lane freeway in our city? What an embarrassment, and what an ass-backward government. 2 lanes for transit? Light rail? Bullshit, and I don’t care. I don’t want a 10 lane behemoth bridge in my city.

    I know most readers of this blog do not vote Liberal,and I didn’t either until the Liberals gave up on their replacement worker legislation (that was a dealbreaker for me).

    This is my new dealbreaker. Which party does not support this massive new urban sprawl project?


    February 4, 2009 at 8:54 pm

  5. Shane, every time you comment you say exactly what I’m thinking!

    Bring on whoever opposes this project – they’ve got my vote!


    February 4, 2009 at 9:19 pm

  6. This may not be as bad as it seems. There is as of yet no contract, no firm price, no financing, and apparently no final agreement on the toll levels.

    The piling in the river was a great media stunt designed to make this seem like a done deal. Who is it that starts construction without a contract in place?

    Eric Doherty

    February 4, 2009 at 9:48 pm

  7. I really would like to be a “fly on the wall” inside the heads of Gordo & Co. as they put these projects together. What are they thinking? Have they ever traveled outside the Lower Mainland? Do they have any clue the directions that the *real* most livable places in the world are going?

    Countries like Mexico and China are building rail as fast as they can, for God sakes! And here we are going back to the future, $3.3 billion at a time…


    February 4, 2009 at 10:01 pm

  8. You don’t have to go even as far as Mexico to see places going in the opposite direction. The people of Washington rejected a similar highway/bridge-building program. Instead, they approved funding for transit and LRT.

    They’re lucky that they still have a semblance of democracy when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money. I find it very disturbing how the BC Libs can get away with such brazen lies. Despite the fact that we’re supposed to be better educated these days than in the thirties and forties, I think there’s a very thin line between democracy and totalitarianism when the media is concentrated in a few hands and in bed with the government.

    Promise people jobs, and they’ll be putty in your hands while you rob them blind.


    February 5, 2009 at 12:47 am

  9. One has to be very careful with the government’s definition of LRT, as many planners still call SkyTrain light-rail!

    SkyTrain was once marketed as Advanced Light Rail Transit or ALRT, but it fooled no one except those in Vancouver and SkyTrain sales remained ar “0”. The name was changed to Advanced Light Rapid Transit by the end of the 80’s.

    At Waterfront Station a bronze plaque uses Advanced Light Rail … and another at Columbia St. Station uses Advanced Light Rapid….

    SkyTrain is a metro, yet very few call it that. I have never heard of a highway bridge, retrofitting car lanes to ‘rail’. Any examples?

    Malcolm J.

    February 5, 2009 at 6:40 am

  10. A very similar expression of big-bridge madness is unfolding more slowly, although just as relentlessly, in another Vancouver somewhere to our south. Lots and lots of public discussion, but will the outcome be any different?


    February 5, 2009 at 8:16 am

  11. Malcolm, no need to worry there will be no lanes of traffic removed for rail transit on the Port Mann. CBC reports that LRT expansion would be accommodated under the bridge deck.

    My worry is that if this project is supposed to pay for itself, a 3$ toll with current traffic would not be sufficient to pay the interest charges on the bridge, so traffic would have to be induced to make this profitable.

    Does this mean that:
    -Smart growth planning would be fought by the province?
    -Transit alternatives would be limited, and rail transit across the Port Mann would be as frequent as across the Burrard bridge?
    -Tolls will be much more than $3 dollars.
    -The repayable loan by the Province would in fact be an equity investment (read grant). (And who qualifies a loan as repayable? Will the bank offer me one of those non-repayable loans?)


    February 5, 2009 at 8:25 am

  12. Julien, I doubt that LRT expansion will accommodated under the bridge and who is ever reporting this is badly mistaken. Further, it is a cable stayed bridge (a combination suspension/cantilever bridge) and unless the track is laid, it just ain’t going to happen.

    I think that this bridge will be at capacity in about 5 years and the problem of gridlock and congestion will return with a vengeance.

    There is no rail transit being planned and with the present lot, never will be.

    Malcolm J.

    February 5, 2009 at 8:53 am

  13. The Globe and Mail reports, “Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon defended the cost increase, noting that the public-private partnership in charge of the project had opted to build a new bridge instead of a twin to the existing one.” Gee, Macquarie would rather make more money by building a more expensive 10-lane bridge rather than a cheaper 5-lane bridge.


    February 5, 2009 at 8:58 am

  14. The government was still claiming that the project would cost $1.5 – 1.6 billion in June, well after the single bridge option was chosen. My understanding is that this decision was final by December 2007.

    Don’t give up, Macquarie may be bankrupt by the end of the year.

    Eric Doherty

    February 5, 2009 at 9:36 am

  15. Don’t you guys think that toll will act as a deterrent for driving and motivator for using transit?

    Let’s say you are going to Downtown Vancouver. The cost of tolls will be $120 a month, plus $200 for parking plus $150 for gas (minimum) plus $100 for insurance (minimum). That is $570 just to get to place of work. Or you could get a 3 zone pass for $120 a month. With gas prices bound to go up this is just going to get more expensive. By increasing tolls you could nicely throttle traffic on that bridge.

    Dejan K

    February 5, 2009 at 9:57 am

  16. Dejan – Yep,

    But if you were to do this you wouldn’t need a wider freeway. The province’s environmental assessment documents state that tolls and improved transit would have the same effect on congestion as tolls and a wider freeway.

    You can’t build your way out of congestion with freeways, but you can allow people to avoid congestion with transit.

    Eric Doherty

    February 5, 2009 at 10:26 am

  17. The toll only applies to the bridge. Much of the traffic that will be induced onto the wider freeway will making local trips and will not cross the bridge. The perceived speed advantage of the wider freeway will actually encourage more and longer trips than are made now.

    The transit service across the Fraser does not meet the needs of people travelling between North Surrey and Coquitlam. They now have to make two transfers – at Columbia and Lougheed Mall – and take a very indirect route. This demand could be accommodated now – and Translink planned to do so but Mr Falcon stopped that.

    Stephen Rees

    February 5, 2009 at 11:00 am

  18. Simple math

    127.000 vehicles a day go over the port mann bridge

    130.000 cars X 5.00$ = 650.000.00 per day

    650.000.00 X 365 days a year = per year X 40 years = 9.5 billion dollars

    That is with tolls staying low and traffic staying at those levels

    Well with tolls going up with inflation,10 lanes of MORE traffic the total cost of this bridge will come at a cost of probably 12 to 16 billion dollars

    I don`t agree with building this bridge but……

    If we are going to build it, the province with it`s 1/3 rd the feds with their 1/3rd and municipalities with their 1/3rd

    we can reduce the cost by 6 billion dollars/

    So much for mister “green Jeans” premier Campbell

    Harper has 40 billion for infrastructure spending why are we going to bed with the (expecting big returns) Macquarie group.

    Follow the money…..The Macquarie group is a partner in the 3.6 billion dollar sea to sky highway upgrade.

    No I am not mistaken about the sea to sky highway….

    Construction cost on the sea to sky 880 million dollars

    The the Macquarie consortium get paid after construction 300.000.00 per day(or 100 million per year) for 25 years to maintain the highway!

    Yes there is a cost in maintenance but 300.000.00 per day!CMON,get a grip

    And if a earthquakes knocks down the infrastructure the consortium`s are off the hook, (it`s called act of god clause) so again the only risk is to the public.

    Grant G

    February 5, 2009 at 3:15 pm

  19. I see the collector lane and express lane configuration providing what amounts to a freeway bridge and an arterial / local traffic bridge in one structure.

    Wrt traffic volumes on the Hwy 1 – Port Mann corridor – here’s a 2004 TransLink report that states that only 19% of westbound am Port Mann traffic enters the City of Vancouver. 32% exits at Cape Horn. See Exhibit 6 in this document:

    Ron C.

    February 6, 2009 at 4:33 pm

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