The provincial governments announcement of a new 10 lane bridge, replacing the Port Mann bodes ill for implementing good transportation planning for the Fraser Valley. The real winners are the ‘roads lobby’, the trucking industry, and the land developers, as the announced bridge caters directly to their demands.
What the new bridge does show, is the utter failure of the SkyTrain metro system to alleviate auto congestion in the region,with a cost of over $100 million/km. SkyTrain is just too expensive to build in quantity to create the ‘rail‘ network to attract the motorist from the car. The new bridge, a clear winner for car drivers, shows that Gordon Campbell’s transportation policy is strictly ‘rubber on asphalt’. Rapid bus or BRT, is the roads-lobby’s favorite transit gimmick, because BRT buses need new highways to operate, but what has been politely overlooked is BRT’s dismal record in attracting ridership, especially the all important motorist from the car. Campbell’s and Falcon’s call for express buses and/or BRT, operating on express bus lanes on the bridge is strictly government propaganda; remembering that in 1986, when the Alex Fraser Bridge was opened, the two lanes reserved for express busses lasted for about six months.
The same is true of putting ‘rail‘ transit on the bridge at a later date and unless the rails are laid during construction it will never happen, unlike the Seattle bus tunnel where rails were laid during its construction and now in use with the new LRT system nearing completion. There is not one single example in the world of an express highway bridge closing traffic lanes and laying track for ‘rail‘ transit. Campbell and his sidekick, Kevin Falcon, speaks ’transit‘ nonsense strictly for 10 second sound bites for radio and TV.
What the bridge will do is exert great pressure on Valley municipalities to plough under more farmland to build houses, increasing population and further putting pressure on our already over-stressed transportation infrastructure. Like the Sea to Sky highway, the new Port Mann Bridge is boon to developers, which should come as no surprise with a developer friendly government. Within five years from opening, the new bridge will be at capacity, what then? With no coherent transportation plan gridlock and traffic chaos will return with a vengeance.
What the new bridge has done is take money away from other important and necessary transportation projects such as the much needed Puttallo Bridge replacement; the Fraser River Rail Bridge replacement, and the return of the interurban.
Gordon Campbell’s Liberal provincial government has played its cards for future transportation planning in the Fraser Valley and light rail is not in the hand.