Premier Gordon Campbell has spelled out some of the details of the government's Gateway Transportation plan, which includes the controversial twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and the widening of Highway 1.

Red line marks freeway expansion, which
includes twinning of the Port Mann Bridge
over the Fraser River.
The government is budgeting $1.5 billion to boost the capacity of the bridge, which the premier calls the most congested traffic spot in B.C.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon says the bridge project is necessary because commuting times from Surrey have gone up 30 per cent in the past 10 years. And he notes there has also been an increase in container truck traffic.

The four-lane bridge was built in 1964 when the population of Greater Vancouver was just 800,000. It has now grown to 2.1 million, and is expected to grow by another 900,000 people over the next 25 years.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic heading west on
the Port Mann Bridge (far lanes).
The $3-billion Gateway plan also includes a new Pitt River Bridge, a new South Fraser bypass route from Delta Port to Highway 1 in Surrey, and a North Fraser road from Maple Ridge to New Westminster.

Critics have complained that twinning the Port Mann and widening the freeway from Vancouver to Langley will just put more cars on the road.

But Falcon says the government plans include more space for other modes of traffic, including $50 million for new cycling lanes. He also says there would be space to run transit buses over the bridge, something that hasn't happened in 20 years.

There is also a debate over the cost and how to pay for the project.

NDP transportation critic David Chudnovsky predicts the project will go 50 per cent over budget. But the premier says that won't happen, as contingencies have been built into the budget.

Falcon says a bridge toll of $2.50 is also being considered, which would help offset the costs of the expansion.

"Not only is it a way to pay for half of the cost of the Gateway program, which is significant, a billion-and-a-half dollars, but it's also a way of making sure we extend the benefits, particularly the environmental benefits and the traffic congestion benefits, out 25 years."

Public consultation on the project is expected to begin this spring.