The Port Mann Bridge is seeing a jump in traffic as several thousand more drivers pay tolls to avoid worse-than-usual traffic delays at the free Pattullo Bridge as a result of construction.
Transportation Investment Corp. spokesman Greg Johnson said 10 to 15 per cent more vehicles crossed the Port Mann on Monday and Tuesday this week than would on a typical weekday.
Normal weekday traffic for the toll bridge is between 100,000 and 110,000 crossings.
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Transportation ministry officials hope more drivers try the Port Mann as an alternative to the Pattullo, which has become a worse bottleneck with one lane closed in each direction for the next five months until early October.
And if the Pattullo slowdowns aren’t bad enough, drivers on that route also hit major congestion in New Westminster, where Front Street is closed until July for the dismantling of the city’s parkade there.
New Westminster politicians have repeatedly urged the B.C. government to offer a reduced toll or some other incentive at the Port Mann Bridge during the Pattullo work to encourage more motorists to take the tolled crossing.
Johnson said that option was not considered.
“The best incentive for using the Port Mann Bridge is the time saving drivers get,” he said.
He said fluctuations in traffic at the Port Mann are expected in the weeks ahead as drivers re-evaluate their options in light of the Pattullo work.
“Ultimately, we think they’re going to make the decision to choose the faster and more reliable option, which is the Port Mann Bridge,” Johnson said. “But we also expect it’s going to take some time for people to come to that realization.”
The Pattullo was completely shut down last weekend as the $10-million rehabilitation of the deck began in earnest, but this week were the first weekdays where commuters grappled with the lane closures.
They’re causing an estimated 20 to 40 minute delays in the morning rush and 10 to 30 minutes in the afternoon peak, with higher volumes resulting on all feeder routes in Surrey and New Westminster.
Complete Pattullo Bridge closures are expected two nights each week and one weekend a month.
New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté said he still hopes the province considers reduced Port Mann tolls during Pattullo construction.
“Out of all the crossings in the area the Port Mann is the one that does have some excess capacity, so any opportunity to reduce the tolls is something we certainly support,” Coté said.
He acknowledged doing that could reduce the toll revenue the province receives.
“It’s easy for me to say as the mayor of New Westminster who doesn’t have to feel the financial impact of making that decision.”