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.
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.
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.