May 23, 2014

Port Mann: The Rise of a Bridge and the Fall of its Use

I missed this last month, but Nathan Pachal and Fraseropolis picked up on the data – Port Mann Bridge: The case of the disappearing traffic.  (Remember, it’s “the widest bridge in the world” and the precedent for the Massey – another multi-billion-dollar commitment with a less than transparent agenda.)

The British Columbia government now predicts heavier short-term financial losses on the Port Mann toll bridge than previously forecast, although it maintains the position that user tolls will eventually pay all costs related to the reconstructed bridge.

The issue here is declining traffic volumes — a pattern of decline that began long before tolls were implemented in 2012. Weekday traffic on the bridge, the primary access point to Vancouver from the rest of Canada, is down an astonishing 20 per cent from the peak levels of 2006.


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  1. and traffic along South Fraser Perimeter road, too, as this road, coupled with access by three crossings from the north side of the Fraser was meant to also shift traffic off Hwy 1.

    Unclear is to me why none of the other bridges are yet tolled, nor why Coqualhalla nor Second Narrows is not tolled. All major crossings or highways ought to be tolled so the government has the money to keep them in ship-shape and/or invest in public transit where warranted. Gasoline tax alone is insufficient for road/bridge/tunnel/transit funding as more and more fuel efficient or e-cars will pay less and less gasoline taxes, or folks gas up in the US. Different funding options ought to be implemented such as highway/tunnel/bridge tolls.

  2. This was actually posted first on South Fraser Blog by Nathan Pachal to give the appropriate hat tip. About a year and a half ago I started a bit of a campaign with Transportation Investment Corp to get them to release usage data, and they did start doing something, but I have to say that the effort lacks conviction. I am still not seeing regular monthly reports nor am I seeing any analysis about whether they are concerned about this drop off and what financial repercussions it might have. Mostly what I see is corporate governance reports where they congratulate themselves on their corporate governance, responsiveness and accountability.

    I have heard transport planner types that seem to have access to this info calling the Port Mann Bridge a “white elephant” because of the revenue shortfalls, and further that a tolled Pattullo would have trouble paying for itself because of usage projections. Interestingly a tolled Pattullo would improve the Port Mann situation a bit by pushing some traffic back.

  3. Golden Ears Bridge opened in 2009. The chart shows a steady drop since that bridge opened.
    Before that, cars either used the Port Mann Bridge or the Albion Ferry.
    So the Golden Ears Bridge could have siphoned off some traffic from the Port Mann Bridge.

    Wikipedia cites Golden Ears Bridge usage at about 30,000 vehicles per day. When added to the Port Mann’s 95,000 per day, that’s 125,000 per day which is more than the Port Mann’s peak in 2006.

    Is the traffic being evaluated in isolation, or within the larger context of an expanding and redistributung network of roads and bridges?

    1. Good point “Guest”…And in he last couple of years some traffic probably moved to Alex Fraser and Pattullo as well as they are free.

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