Port Mann Bridge: The case of the disappearing traffic

Part of the Port Mann Bridge; graphic from the current TI Corp service plan

Part of the Port Mann Bridge; graphic from the current TI Corp service plan

The British Columbia government now predicts heavier short-term financial losses on the Port Mann toll bridge than previously forecast, although it maintains the position that user tolls will eventually pay all costs related to the reconstructed bridge.

The issue here is declining traffic volumes — a pattern of decline that began long before tolls were implemented in 2012. Weekday traffic on the bridge, the primary access point to Vancouver from the rest of Canada, is down an astonishing 20 per cent from the peak levels of 2006. Continue reading

Port Mann tolls will “pay all costs” of $3.3 billion project

In the 2012-2013 budget released this week, the Government of British Columbia holds to its position that user tolls from the Port Mann Bridge will pay for all capital and operating costs associated with the 37-kilometre Port Mann/Highway 1 Project.  This in spite of a caution last year from B.C.’s Auditor-General, who said the revenue outlook from tolling is uncertain. (See Fraseropolis, September 30, 2011.)

The assertion that PMH1 will be self-financing is contained both in the main provincial budget document (pages 38 and 41) and in a new service plan from the Transportation Investment Corporation, the agency responsible for financing and building the project.  The language has been softened slightly; the previous service plan referred to “full cost recovery,” the current one speaks of recovering “the capital costs of the project as well as operating and maintenance costs,” with revenues reaching a net positive position by 2017/2018. Continue reading

A billion-dollar quibble over the Port Mann Bridge

British Columbia Auditor-General John Doyle’s omnibus report on the B.C. government’s reporting practices states that the Port Mann project office (the Transportation Investment Corp.) should not be categorized as a “government business enterprise” since its prospects for profitability are murky. “The financial model developed by the TIC forecasts that it will not be profitable until 2017/18,” says the A-G.  Perhaps more significantly, he adds, the government’s traffic and revenue estimates may be wrong.  The Port Mann project investment, he suggests at the top of his report, should be regarded as taxpayer-supported debt.  Continue reading