Less than a month ago, PT was wondering whether the Port Mann would be joining the growing list of toll roads, bridges and tunnels that are failing (sometimes dramatically) to meet their projections – and hence the financial premise on which they were constructed (and in Port Mann’s case, overbuilt).
It’s not looking good.
The new Port Mann Bridge is expected to see a 20-per-cent shortfall in anticipated revenues in each of the next three years as drivers increasingly flee to the Pattullo Bridge to avoid the $3 toll. …
That means 6,000 fewer cars per day are using the Port Mann Bridge compared with the traffic before an initial $1.50 toll was introduced in December 2012. …
The lower traffic estimates for the Port Mann have prompted Ti Corp. to revise its revenue estimates for the next three years to $144 million for 2014, $159 million in 2015 and $174 million in 2016 — about 20 per cent less than previously anticipated.
The spin machine shifted into gear:
The provincial government and TI Corp. on Friday downplayed the trends on the Port Mann as temporary, saying they had expected traffic numbers to drop on the bridge once the full toll was implemented on Jan. 1.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone … noted that when Florida and Texas increased tolls in 2012 and 2013, the diversion ranged between three and seven per cent as drivers immediately tried alternate routes. Within three months, though, traffic had returned to pre-increase levels.
The obvious question is: If you thought that was going to happen, why didn’t you include it in your projections?
The Minister blames … better transit.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone blamed high gas prices, improved public transit and more people working from home as affecting traffic on the route, but insists TI Corp. is still on track to pay off the project ahead of the 2050 schedule.
That’s where the alarm bell should go off. How can this be? A 20 percent decline – but everything is still on track to pay for the bridge? Most likely, they’re assuming traffic will be rebound to meet their projections. Indeed, the Minister said as much:
“There is no question that on the Port Mann Bridge, the overall traffic volumes are down somewhat year over year,” Stone said in Vancouver on Friday. “But what we expect is that those numbers will bounce back as people really sort it out, and determine how much is their time worth?”
There’s another scenario, based more on reality than expectation:
… that hasn’t appeared to have happened with the Golden Ears Bridge, which is only now starting to see the same levels of traffic that it received in its first month — when it was free to use. That bridge, also owned by TransLink, is costing the transportation authority $40 million annually because the traffic numbers are not what were originally anticipated.
Meanwhile, the future of transportation infrastructure that has consistently exceeded expectations for demand, and been consistently underbuilt to meet it – notably the Canada Line – is being put up for a risky vote, while the Motordom machine continues to rev up. The demand for bigger bridges is as strong as ever:
(Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts) said regardless of the traffic patterns, TransLink should be moving ahead with a new Pattullo crossing. The project has long been on TransLink’s list of priorities, but Surrey and New Westminster have struggled to agree on what to do — Surrey wants a new six-lane crossing, while New Westminster would prefer to see the bridge rehabilitated and a new crossing built between Surrey and Coquitlam.
You can bet the commitment to a 10-lane Massey Crossing remains in place. Not for a moment, I’d bet, would the government entertain the idea of placing a toll on the existing tunnel and using the revenues to boost transit, both reducing congestion and offering an alternative, while saving $2 to $3 billion for another overbuilt bridge.
They have learned nothing.