B.C. details $3B program; proposes tolls to pay for Port Mann twinning

VANCOUVER — B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell says he’ll have to charge at least a $2.50 toll per head each way on the Port Mann Bridge to pay for the twin span as part of the Gateway Program.

Details of the $3-billion program — which attempts to improve bridge and highway infrastructure and cut down on congestion in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland — were unveiled this week. The province’s share of costs is around $500 million.

Artist rendering of new Port Mann twinning

The province wants to double capacity of the 41-year-old Port Mann and expand sections of Highway 1 between Vancouver and Langley at a cost of $1.5-billion. It is also proposing a $1.2-billion plan to build bridge facilities and perimeter roads alongside the Fraser River to improve traffic between Burnaby and provincial gateways, such as Delta port.

The South Fraser Perimeter Road proposal, if approved, is slated for completion by 2009, while the Port Mann/Highway 1 twinning would be done in 2013.

The program is still subject to public consultations.

Campbell told local media that without tolls or other congestion-cutting measures, traffic levels could return to their current levels within five to 10 years after the twinned bridge opening. Citing government studies, he added tolls would keep traffic below current volume beyond 2031.

The government also wants to reintroduce bus transit across the Port Mann Bridge, and eventual addition of light rail as well. It also talked about an extension of HOV lanes to Langley.

In the past five years, the number of registered vehicles in the GVRD increased by 13 percent to 143,000. The Lower Mainland is expecting nearly a million newcomers to the city over the next decade and commercial traffic to the port of Vancouver is expected to skyrocket as international trade with Asia continues to grow at unprecedented levels.

The British Columbia Trucking Association has been lobbying for years to twin the Port Mann, which BCTA President Paul Landry calls “the most congested piece of road in British Columbia.”

About 127,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day. The crossing is known to back up for dozens of blocks during peak hours, taking vehicles over an hour to travel through the major artery.

Neighbouring politicians also applauded the projects. “The Gateway program as a key to future prosperity on the West Coast This program allows for easier access to Asian markets for Canadian shippers, which combined with unprecedented trade opportunities will maximize our prosperity,” says Dr. Lyle Oberg, Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation for Alberta and Chair of the The Western Transportation Advisory Council (WESTAC). “This is a step forward for Albertans and for all Canadians.”

“There is too much at risk if B.C. had not initiated this plan,” says Ruth Sol WESTAC president. “Transportation is an economic driver and hampering its growth is detrimental to us all. This initiative will ensure Vancouver remains the Port of choice on the West Coast and our business, freight, jobs and opportunities are not be lost to better funded U.S. system.”

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.