The new Port Mann Bridge – A bridge too big!

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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.

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7 Responses to “The new Port Mann Bridge – A bridge too big!”

  1. ras Says:

    I agree with your post. Two factual quibbles: although the Seattle tunnel was built with tracks, they proved unsuitable for the LRT ultimately chosen, and the tunnel had to be closed for two years while they were ripped up and replaced. And Sound Transit-2, recently passed by Seattle-area voters, calls for the laying of LRT track from Seattle across the I-90 bridge over Lake Washington and Mercer Island to Belleview.

  2. zweisystem Says:

    You are right to a point. The track laid in Seattle’s transit tunnel was laid with the wrong type of securing and insulation which would have caused stray currents. It was cheaper to tear it out than to retrofit.

    I doubt rail will be laid on the present floating bridge, as it was not designed for rail (floating bridges have a lot of other issues as well but there are historical precedents for trams on floating bridges) and I believe that a new I-90 floating bridge will be designed to take LRT. Like the ‘super’ Port Mann Bridge, I doubt Seattle’s transit authorities will take away road space on the I-90 floating bridge for LRT.

  3. Eric Doherty Says:

    Hi Malcom,

    I agree with much of what you have written, I was just down in Portland and loved riding the light rail rapid transit.

    But your statement that “BRT buses need new highways to operate” is just not true. One of the most common locations for BRT busways is in traffic lanes re-allocated from general purpose lanes on arterial roads. The first system was built in Curitiba Brazil instead of new freeways, in the right of way reserved for the freeways that never were.

    But Falcon is not proposing BRT in any case, buses in a HOV lane does not make Bus Rapid Transit, even calling the proposal rapid bus is a stretch.

    Cheers,

    Eric

  4. zweisystem Says:

    There is much misinformation about Curitiba and its BRT system, but what is important to know is that the World Bank, at the time and probably still does, refuses to fund ‘rail’ projects and instead will only fund highway projects. Curitiba’s BRT system needed new major highways and roads and with the BRT it was much easier getting financing. What many people do not know is that in order to operate BRT, multi-lane highways had to be built to accommodate the BRT system to get the capacity needed to move large volumes of people. What is shown in many videos is partial bus routes in the suburbs and not the main arterial bus highways. Traffic congestion is so bad and private ownership of cars is increasing, that the head of the bus system is quoted saying that “the transit system needed light-rail to compete against the car.”, and this on top of a proposed subway system.

    If one investigates Curitiba’s rapid bus system, it is not the success that many have made it out to be.

    http://grieve-smith.com/ftn/?p=9

  5. Rail for the Valley, & the new Port Mann bridge « Rail For The Valley Says:

    […] Malcolm Johnston 2 […]

  6. Rod Smelser Says:

    How is a toll bridge taking money away from ANY other public purpose?

    If Patullo is replaced by Translink, it will be a full cost recovery P3 identical to Golden Ears. I know your colleagues Eric Doherty and Stephen Rees are vehement opponents of the GE Bridge, what about yourself?

  7. zweisystem Says:

    I believe that BC style of P-3’s are a thing of the past. The amount of money invested by the private sector in any BC P-3 was very small indeed and it was the taxpayer that bore the brunt of financing and risk, the RAV project is a good example of that.

    The Golden Ears Bridge is almost completed so there is not much to add. I do think that the 10-lane Port-Mann mega-bridge is a mistake, until the effects of the Golden Ears Bridge is fully felt. I am adamant that the bridges that need to be replaced are the Puttallo and the Fraser River Rail Bridge and I believe they should be replaced by a combined 6 lane road and a 3 track lift span (draw or vertical lift) bridge. The 3 track rail bridge would have 1 West (down) – 1 East (up) & 1 reversible (centre track) which would give high rail capacity. The key to our transportation woes is rail and the sooner we start investing in 21st century rail solutions like tram-train and LRT, the better we will be to cope with the full effects of peak-oil, global warming, and local endemic auto gridlock.

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