New board to oversee Port Mann project

An artist’s conception of the new twinned Port Mann Bridge, part of the province’s Gateway program.  -
An artist’s conception of the new twinned Port Mann Bridge, part of the province’s Gateway program.
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A new Crown corporation is being formed to manage the Port Mann bridge twinning and widening of the Trans-Canada Highway leading up to it.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said Thursday the new corporation will hold the assets and right-of-way of the bridge and the 37 kilometres of highway and approaches that will go from Vancouver to Langley. It will call for bids and contract with a private developer that will build, maintain and manage the project, due to be completed by 2013.

The province already has a Crown corporation called the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority that oversees big projects including the Kicking Horse Pass highway expansion, the William R. Bennett bridge over Okanagan Lake and the Sea-to-Sky Highway upgrade. Falcon said a new one is necessary to manage the toll revenues that will flow from the Port Mann project.

“If we tried to do it through the ministry, it would commingle those funds and frankly wouldn’t provide the same amount of transparency,” Falcon said. “We also want the Crown corporation to have the ability to vary the tolls. We want to ensure that tolls can be adjusted for HOV lanes for example, to encourage the use of HOV lanes, to allow exemptions for those with disabilities, or perhaps taxis.”

Falcon said the new corporation would not require additional staff, only a board of directors to oversee the operators. The government will set a limit on the tolls, initially to be about $3 per crossing. To begin the board will be made up of senior ministry staff, he said. Cabinet appointments will follow later.

NDP transportation critic Maurine Karagianis said the idea is “just silly,” and can only result in an extra bureaucratic layer with associated costs and less public accountability.

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