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Gateway Program will improve air quality

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by Brian Martin

The twinning of the Port Mann Bridge is a “green” project as far as B.C.’s transportation minister is concerned.
Gateway Program will improve air quality

Infrastructure

The twinning of the Port Mann Bridge is a “green” project as far as B.C.’s transportation minister is concerned.

Kevin Falcon has moved to allay some construction industry fears that the project and the entire Gateway Program may have been a victim of the provincial government’s new emphasis on “greening” the province.

The minister was speaking February 14 to the opening CEO breakfast of the annual B.C. Construction Show in Vancouver.

In response to a question from the Journal of Commerce he assured them The Gateway Program and the Port Mann project will improve, not harm, air quality in Greater Vancouver. “When you get traffic moving it is actually a lot better than having traffic sitting and idling for 13 hours a day pumping emissions out in the atmosphere,” he said.

In addition the minister pointed out the twinned crossing will not only allow transit buses to use the route for the first time in 20 years, it will also provide special lanes that will allow buses to jump head of traffic lined up for the bridge. In addition there will be provision for cyclists and for the eventual addition of rapid transit. Falcon also reminded the audience that the crossing will be tolled.

This, he said, is not only a way to pay for the bridge but it is also meant to encourage commuters to use transit.

Although it hasn’t been announced a spokesperson in the ministry of transportation told the Journal that it is more than likely the twinned crossing will be built as a private-public partnership. Actual construction is expected to take place between 2008 and 2013.

The minister slammed critics of the crossing, most of whom he said live in Vancouver and never use it. Their fears that the crossing will funnel more traffic into the city are ill founded he claimed. Falcon said a traffic study done by the province and TransLink show most commuter traffic now is from suburb to suburb rather than from suburb to downtown as it used to be 25 years ago.

“Fifty per cent of the west bound Port Mann traffic gets right off and goes to the northeast sector. Very little of it actually goes into Vancouver.”

The minister also said that studies show the crossing will have virtually no impact on air quality out to 2021.

The overall Gateway Program is a $3 billion undertaking spread over approximately a decade. In addition to the Port Mann Bridge it involves widening Highway One as far as Langley and adding HOV lanes on the Surrey to Langley stretch.

The other two major components are a planned four-lane highway called the South Fraser Perimeter Road that will run from North Langley along the south shore of the Fraser River all the way to Delta Port in South Delta. Along the way it will serve several major industrial areas such as the CNR inter-modal location in Langley, Surrey Fraser Docks, Tilbury Island Industrial Park and Delta Port itself. It will tie in with the Golden Ears Bridge across the Fraser River at Langley currently under construction by TransLink. The combination of the new bridge and the perimeter road are expected to divert a considerable amount of traffic from Highway One and the Port Mann.

On the north side of the Fraser River a parallel route known as the North Fraser Perimeter road will serve a similar role.

The Gateway Program received its official kick-off on February 9th when government officials including Falcon and Premier Gordon Campbell broke ground for a new Pitt River Bridge as the first stage of the North Fraser Perimeter Road. It is part of a project that will see two obsolete swing bridges replaced with a new seven-lane bridge and also see a new interchange built to connect the Mary Hill Bypass and the Lougheed Highway. Cost of this first phase is $198 million. Of that total $90 million is being covered by the federal government and the rest by Victoria. Contractor is Peter Kiewit & sons. Construction is expected to be complete by November, 2009.

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