Vancouver’s new, $3B Port Mann Bridge proving dangerous for drivers

Matt Coutts
Daily Brew
Three eastbound lanes opened on the new Port Mann Bridge in Metro Vancouver early Tuesday morning.

Vancouver's newly-renovated Port Mann Bridge is the second-longest cable-supported bridge in North America, with an innovative design that cost some $3 billion to build.

Just hope no one planned to ever use it.

The 10-lane toll bridge has only been open for about a month, but it has already been the site of two separate and major incidents, caused in part by winter weather and in part to the bridge's design.

CBC News reports that 40 vehicles were involved in accidents on the bridge on Thursday. A de-icing solution used that day was too weak to clear the span of frost, leading to chaos and traffic jams during the morning commute.

[ Related: Port Mann Bridge not sufficiently de-iced ]

The week before Christmas, ice buildups on the bridge's support cables cracked off and struck hundreds of passing cars and injuring several people.

So much for that innovative design.

The Port Mann Bridge, linking Surrey and Coquitlam, includes a web of 288 cables that attach to towers about 75 metres above the roadway. It’s pretty, to be sure, as far as bridges go.

Using the wrong de-icing solution is a silly mistake, but one perhaps understandable in an area of the country more familiar with slush than snow. Daily de-icings have been promised to avoid further issues.

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But ice falling from those celebrated cables — that one is enough to give the province some buyer's remorse.

The Vancouver Sun reported that part of the contract with bridge maker Kiewit-Flatiron was that ice would not build up on the cables — a plastic coating was meant to ensure this problem didn’t happen. The company released a statement at the time, vowing to review the issue.

Falling ice, slippery conditions. They say bad things come it threes. Perhaps drivers should take the long route until that third shoe drops.

Or maybe the bridge should only be open in summer.