The idea of enticing drivers to use the new Port Mann Bridge is being panned by transportation analysts and critics a day after CTV News learned the crown corporation in charge of bridge tolls is considering an incentive program.
“In this case it looks like we’re going to be in the business of subsidizing sprawl,” said Gordon Price, Director of SFU’s City Program. “In order to feed the bridge, we’re going to give incentives so that people will drive more and further out to cheaper land.”
The idea appears to go against a regional growth plan to make the Lower Mainland a greener, less car-dependent region with multiple options for transportation that include driving, transit, biking and walking.
The Transportation Investment Corp’s vice-president of tolling, Max Logan told CTV News Monday that the crown corporation was considering a frequent flyer-type rewards system for regular bridge users.
“I’m pretty sure that’s the opposite of what we said we wanted to do,” said Price.
New numbers released last week showed Port Mann Traffic has fallen below levels seen before the new crossing was built as drivers opt for the aging Patullo Bridge, which has no toll.
“We’ve got a bill now of $3.6-billion for a bridge that nobody’s using,” said NDP transportation critic Claire Trevena. “They’re using any other option except the Port Mann, so this is something the government has got to find a solution for pretty quickly or else it’ll never pay off this debt.”
According to Price, car use peaked in North America 10 years ago and that wasn’t taken into account when building the new Port Mann, which was overbuilt.
“I think it’s going to be looked upon like the Granville Bridge. It was a huge structure for its time in the 50s but we never needed to build a bridge that wide, that many lanes and we can’t fill it up. Now we can take two lanes out,” he said.
Price fears the same sort of planning is occurring with the 10-lane replacement for the George Massey Tunnel that will not include any major transit improvements, nor does it take into account disruptive change of technology and decreased car ownership.
Regardless of future plans, the government still needs to come up with a plan to recoup the more than $3.6-billion it owes on the Port Mann.
Currently the bridge is losing $80-million per year.