B.C. gets its Mann

SURREY, B.C. — Instead of twinning the aging Port Mann Bridge, the B.C. government revealed its plans for a new, single, 10-lane span.

Perhaps the more important news though is construction officially began two days ago on Feb. 4.

Initial plans to twin the 45-year-old bridge were revealed a few years ago as part of a strategy to improve B.C.’s transportation network and better align the province with the Asian trade market.

The most recent news surrounding the project was a potential lack of funding as the global credit crunch made investment dollars harder to find for the projects private stakeholders. The province stepped in to save the project, offering to fund one-third of the $3.3 billion project.

“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 Gordon 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.”

Once construction of the new bridge is complete, the old Port Mann will be removed. The project also includes widening Highway 1, upgrading interchanges, and improving access and safety in the 37 km leading up to the bridge.

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.

The new bridge will also include a new RapidBus service that will allow commuters to travel all the way from Langley to Burnaby SkyTrain in 23 minutes. The Port Mann-Highway 1 Project will provide for the first bus service across the Port Mann Bridge in over 20 years.

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.

“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 Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon. “The Port Mann-Highway 1 Project will help travelers see a time savings of up to 30 percent due to reduced congestion.”

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

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