Heading into another big step toward the full opening of the new Port Mann Bridge, the man who was the driving force behind the project has no regrets.
Kevin Falcon is the outgoing Surrey-Cloverdale MLA, but was the minister of transportation when the Gateway Project for a new Port Mann and the expansion of Highway 1 from Langley to Vancouver was unveiled.
"It's all good as far as I'm concerned," Falcon said Tuesday of progress that will see westbound Highway 1 traffic shifted overnight Saturday onto the new Fraser River crossing.
Three eastbound lanes opened in September.
Traffic westbound will be restricted to two lanes until midnight on Dec. 1 when four lanes in each direction will open. Tolling will begin Dec. 8. The new bridge will eventually have 10 lanes in total.
But the project, which carries a $3.3-billion price tag, is critical, in Falcon's estimation.
"It's the most import-ant commercial-economic gateway in the province of B.C. and it's also the most congested," said Falcon.
"Opening up that corridor is going to be hugely important to the economy."
Falcon is proud of the fact that the bridge, when complete, will have bicycle and bus lanes, along with the capacity to carry light rapid transit, and that it's opening a year ahead of what was originally envisioned.
Probably the most controversial aspect of the bridge is its tolls. Falcon thinks those tolls will be accepted because of the bridge's benefits.
"For most people, saving an hour a day is worth something," he said.
But there are still critics. Ben West of the Wilderness Committee fought the project when it was announced and still believes it was the wrong decision.
"There really is no example anywhere where building highways for any prolonged period of time reduced congestion," said West.
Port Mann crews are still completing widening and improvements through the Cape Horn interchange at the north end of the bridge, which is the reason only two lanes will be available until Dec. 1.
Drivers are being asked to register for the TReO decals, which will make payment of tolls more efficient. More information is available online at treo.ca.
@ Copyright 2013