The $3.3-billion Port Mann Bridge hit a milestone yesterday as the final connecting piece of concrete was revealed, completing the span across the Fraser River to connect Coquitlam and Surrey.
Transportation Minster Blair Lekstrom marked the occasion with a symbolic walk across the 2,020-metre bridge – the widest in the world, Lekstrom claims – and said eight of the 10 lanes will be operational by December 2012. The final two lanes are set to open sometime in 2013 as the existing bridge is decommissioned.
“We need this infrastructure,” said Lekstrom. “Most people accept that we have to pay if we want this.”
The controversial tolling system has not been finalized, but regular vehicles are expected to be charged $3 per crossing when the bridge is complete sometime in 2013 with incentives for commercial use after commuter hours.
“We’re working on the tolling framework, recognizing that only eight lanes will be available to start,” Lekstrom said, adding the amount will be revealed in “a couple of months.”
The province is spending $400,000 in advertising to promote the project, but Lekstrom said public education is important to avoid commuter migration to the non-tolled Pattullo Bridge.
“I don’t think anybody could argue that this isn’t a benefit to British Columbians,” he said.
The bridge is part of the Gateway Project, a 37-kilometre Highway 1 improvement intended to cut down on traffic gridlock. Government numbers estimate a driver coming from 200th Street in Langley to Grandview Highway in Vancouver will save an hour of commuting time each day with the new bridge.
Rapid transit will run across the bridge for the first time in 20 years, Lekstrom said. When the project is completed, it will have required 8,000 person years of labour.