The new electronically tolled Port Mann Bridge is now half built.
Politicians and construction crews gathered at the new span Saturday to mark the 50-per-cent completion milestone.
The new 10-lane bridge across the Fraser River is the centrepiece of the $3.3-billion Port Mann/Highway 1 expansion project.
The bridge will reduce congestion, cut commute times and ease goods movement, according to Premier Christy Clark.
"Once complete, commuters will save an hour a day in travel time," she said.
Eight of the lanes of the bridge are to open by late 2012 and tolls will go into effect at the same time. The other two lanes open in 2013.
Bridge users will pay a minimum $3 to cross one-way, provided they use a transponder or pay within two days – otherwise the cost will be $5.30. The base toll rises 2.5 per cent a year.
The bridge is projected to initially raise at least $175 million a year in tolls, a figure which assumes it carries 20 per cent more paying vehicles than crossed for free in 2007.
Even so, it will take several more years of traffic growth and at least a further 15 per cent boost in revenue before it reaches the break-even point where tolls match the outgoing payments to the private partner that builds and maintains the project.
It will be the biggest bridge in B.C., with an 850-metre-long main bridge deck and an overall length including approaches of just over two kilometres.
A total of 288 cables will hold up the bridge, anchored to 160-metre high towers.
The lanes will include an HOV/bus lane in each direction, as well as a five-metre wide path for bikes and pedestrians.
There will also be a local traffic lane in each direction separated from other highway traffic that will be dedicated to users going directly between Surrey and Port Coquitlam.
The project is also supposed to bring a new Highway 1 RapidBus service running from a new park-and-ride in Langley via north Surrey to Lougheed SkyTrain station in Burnaby in less than 25 minutes.
But TransLink says it doesn't yet have the money to operate the Highway 1 bus service, which is one of a number of proposed expansion projects that depend on increased funding.
Once the new bridge is complete, the old Port Mann Bridge will be demolished.
Transportation minister Blair Lekstrom thanked the project's 1,500 workers and appealed to bridge users and project neighbours for continued patience and safe driving during in construction zones.
BY THE NUMBERS:
157,000 cubic metres of concrete25,000 tonnes of asphalt for new bridge deck28,000 tonnes of rebar and 13,000 tonnes of structural steel1,158 pre-cast segments in the approach spans116 steel composite segments in the cable-stay span16 kilometres of pile and five kilometres of drilled shafts to support the structure45 kilometres of cable