Occasionally when I am investigating one story, something comes up that leads me to a new and completely unrelated topic. In this case, I was researching another P3 project I’ve been working on, and stumbled across one of those things that make you go Hmmmm.
I’m talking about that big old white elephant, the Golden Ears Bridge, the same one that is currently cracking all over the deck because they didn’t let the concrete cure and rushed along to have the bridge done so far ahead of schedule. Yes, they were really moving to have that bridge completed in time…but the question is, in time for what?
The 2010 winter olympics of course.
Today I was on the site of a very large engineering and consulting company that happened to work on the Golden Ears bridge – Trow Associates Inc. – and this is what they have to say about the project – click on the screen shot I captured just in case this site suddenly changes, to enlarge it :
The Golden Ears Bridge, a 2010 Winter Olympic Games initiative, connects many local roads and major highways and thoroughfares throughout the Maple Ridge / Langley, BC area. The prime engineering challenge presented to our team by the ground condition was to design reliable foundations in these soft, highly compressible clay soils to support the main river bridge and the approach spans. We also were challenged to effectively design earth embankments up to 8 m in height without causing unacceptable settlement of the road surface. The project included the design of a foundation-type never before used in Canada and the design of earthworks and foundation for unusually soft soil conditions. The bridge opened to traffic on June 16, 2009.
I highlighted the portion I found most interesting. Funny thing is, I though this bridge was all about helping the people on opposite sides of the river, get around easier and save time. I started looking around to see what else I could find, however all of Translinks consultation documents that were previously available on the web, are no longer working or valid. Frustrated at this, I looked far and wide and finally, found a PDF VANOC game plan that highlights the Golden Ears Bridge as a permanent transit enhancement of the games.
Here is that screen shot, click and let load to see the full size page:
Suddenly, it all makes sense.
For years people had been calling for a bridge across the river, dating back to the late 90′s. In September 2000, the TransLink Board endorsed, in principle, the development of a tolled highcapacity crossing of the Fraser River in the 200th Street corridor. The Board also directed that the project be undertaken at no net cost to TransLink. The user tolls had to be sufficient to cover all project costs. However, still nothing happened… until – coincidentally – the idea of bidding for the 2010 winter games came along. Then, suddenly, things started moving along to get the bridge going. Timeline from Wikipedia
Now, you might say, ” What’s the big deal?” but I say, should this bridge that is still not coming close to meeting user expectations, be considered another Olympic cost? The bridge was being built during a time of skyrocketing construction costs -could substantial amounts of money have been saved by waiting until after the olympics were over? I’m no economist, but I certainly think so. The numbers of projected users never even came close on this toll bridge, and now there is talk of reducing the cost of those tolls.
Because I had never previously heard of the Golden ears being referred to outright as a 2010 Winter Olympics Initiative, I called Trow Associates to see where that came into play, and talked to Trevor Lumb, who, although he confirmed it was an Olympic Initiative, could not give any details.
Translink spokesman Ken Hardie did not respond to an email I sent this morning, by the time of this posting. I will update this story with his comment when it arrives.
Is the Golden Ears Bridge doomed to be a failed Olympic legacy?