Definitions

Port Mann Bridge

Port Mann Bridge

The Port Mann Bridge is a steel tied arch bridge that spans the Fraser River connecting Coquitlam to Surrey in British Columbia near Vancouver. The bridge consists of three spans with an orthotropic deck carrying five lanes of Trans-Canada Highway traffic, with approach spans of three steel plate girders and concrete deck. The total length of the Port Mann is 2093 m (6867 ft.), including approach spans. The main span is: 366 m (1200 ft.) plus the two 110 m (360 ft.) spans on either side.

History

The Port Mann Bridge opened on June 12, 1964, originally carrying four lanes. At the time of construction, it was the most expensive piece of highway in Canada. The first “civilian” to drive across the bridge was CKNW reporter Marke Raines. He was not authorized to cross, so he drove quickly. In 2001 an extra lane eastbound was added by moving the sidewalks outside of the structure.

Gateway Program

On January 31, 2006 the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation introduced the Gateway Program as a means to address growing congestion. The scope of the Gateway Program includes building a second bridge, upgrading interchanges, widening the Trans-Canada Highway and improving access and safety from 216 Street in Langley to the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing in Vancouver.
The PMH1 project expands the HOV network, provides cycling access and reintroduces bus service to the Port Mann Bridge for the first time in over 20 years. The current plan involves a public/private partnership in which a contractor will design, build, finance, operate and maintain improvements in exchange for toll revenue on the completed bridge.
The Ministry of Transportation contends that increased congestion increases pollution thus lowering the quality of life for residents and workers, as well as increasing costs to move goods and services. The Ministry also states that bridge is congested 14 hours a day, and that the Port of Vancouver is planning for a quadrupling of traffic by 2020.

Opposition to Twinning Plan

The current proposal of expanding the bridge and highway is very controversial. A coalition of environmental groups, community organizations, and individuals called the Livable Region Coalition has spearheaded the movement to improve mass transit rather than build a new freeway bridge. Opponents to the expansion include the Metro Vancouver Regional District (formerly the Greater Vancouver Regional District), The City of Vancouver, The City of Burnaby, urban planners,, and the Sightline Institute.

Opponents argue that increasing the highway capacity will only stave off congestion for a few years before increased traffic congests the area again, and would encourage suburban sprawl. The Livable Region Coalition has urged the Minister of Transportation, Kevin Falcon, to consider more sustainable solutions to reducing congestion, including rapid transit lines and improved bus routes.

There are currently no public buses that cross the Port Mann bridge. The Minsitry of Transportation claims this is because the massive congestion prevents them from keeping to schedule. However, the Livable Region Coalition asserts that buses could efficiently cross the bridge with the addition of a simple queue jumper lane.

The David Suzuki Foundation claims the plan violates the goals of Metro Vancouver's Livable Region Strategic Plan and fails to promote alternative forms of transportation. Many citizens and citizen groups have called on the government to open up the proposal to public scrutiny.

Port Traffic Needs

Critics have pointed out that the twinning of the Port Mann has less to do with alleviating congestion than has been suggested, but is rather motivated by the government's goal of increase Vancouver's port share by twofold over the next decade. A belief that is in dispute considering the high volume of commuter traffic. More lanes on the bridge would mean easier access for trucks between ports and Canadian routes inland, as well as the I-5 corridor south. However, the majority of trucks traffic using this corridor are bound for local destinations. Long haul trips are predominantly made by rail.

The port does not operate at night, when the roads are largely empty; some critics have argued moving truck traffic to the evening would be a more effective alternative. Unfortunately, not every business is capable of shipping and receiving goods during those hours. Since the privatization of CN Rail in 1992, it is politically easier to subsidize trucking indirectly through road building, than rail was once subsidized directly through the input of funds.

Approximately eight percent of the traffic on the Port Mann bridge is truck traffic, so some critics have suggested that there is not really a capacity problem if single occupancy commuters could be moved to other modes. However, this theory does not address the population and employment growth predicted for the region. Transit is not a viable option for everyone and there are many businesses besides trucking companies that need to move people and services within the region.

The South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority has endorsed the plan contingent of the following conditions: the bridge be financed by tolls, the bridge includes priority access/HOV lanes, and the government does not encourage motorists to use the Pattullo Bridge as a free alternative. In the coming years, this option will free option will cease, as a replacement bridge for the Patullo, announced by Translink July 31, 2008, will be tolled. The only remaining toll-free crossings of the Fraser River in Metro Vancouver will be the Alex Fraser Bridge and George Massey Tunnel.

See also

References

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