Was the construction of the “White Elephant” Golden Ears Bridge about connecting communities – or was it a 2010 Olympic Initiative?

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 :  

Golden Ears Bridge is a 2010 Winter Olympic Games Initiative


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:  

Permanent Transit Enhancements for the 2010 Winter Games


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?

” Vancouver’s Olympics head for disaster” ~ The Guardian

This link is appearing everywhere online, and has been sent to me by a number of readers. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/jan/31/vancouver-winter-olympics-police

An interesting commentary, it at first appears to be an overseas Op-Ed, but on further examination the author turns out to be a local freelancer, who was in fact interviewed by CBC yesterday! ( thank you C.!)  ** note how many links it has from local sources documenting the harsh financial realities of our fair province, an amalgamation of why so many people are feeling more concern than excitement.  Although the author tends to- as one reader put it- hyperbole, I still think it presents a fairly accurate representation of how many people are feeling in these days before our world debut.  ( someone might do well to stick this right on top of Bill Good’s desk – I hear many are getting tired of his incessant nattering over the lack of enthusiasm over the games. Reality check Bill- we don’t all live in fancy condo’s on the harbour and have two jobs to count on, let alone one for the many laid off and out of work people all over the  province )

An excerpt:

              It’s now two weeks until the start of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic games, a city-defining event that is a decade in the making. But a decade is a very long time. Much of what seemed sensible in the early 2000s has proven to be the opposite: for instance, allowing investment bankers to pursue profits willy-nilly was acceptable when Vancouver won the bid in 2003, but is now viewed as idiotic. So it comes as no surprise that just days before the opening ceremony, Vancouver is gripped by dread. Not the typical attitude for a host city, but understandable when you consider that everything that could go wrong, is in the process of going wrong.


            “The Bailout Games” have already been labelled a staggering financial disaster. While the complete costs are still unknown, the Vancouver and British Columbian governments have hinted at what’s to come by cancelling 2400 surgeries, laying off 233 government employees, 800 teachers and recommending the closure of 14 schools. It might be enough to make one cynical, but luckily every inch of the city is now coated with advertisements that feature smiley people enjoying the products of the event’s gracious sponsors.

Conservative estimates now speculate that the games will cost upwards of $6bn, with little chance of a return. This titanic act of fiscal malfeasance includes a security force that was originally budgeted at $175m, but has since inflated to $900m. With more than 15,000 members, it’s the largest military presence seen in western Canada since the end of the second world war, an appropriate measure only if one imagines al-Qaida are set to descend from the slopes on C2-strapped snowboards. With a police officer on every corner and military helicopters buzzing overhead, Vancouver looks more like post-war Berlin than an Olympic wonderland. Whole sections of the city are off-limits, scores of roads have been shut down, small businesses have been told to close shop and citizens have been instructed to either leave the city or stay indoors to make way for the projected influx of 300,000 visitors.

While  most of the local media are pushing the feel good, rah- rah, “it’s all good” mantra, we are begining to see the international media descend in droves and are looking for other stories about the impact of the Olympics from residents and freelancers alike. Keep your eyes peeled…

You heard it here locally first, on January 11th…now,CBC picks up NY post story and tells more of how Intrawest’s troubles are threatening the Olympics in Whistler

You heard it here first on January 11th, which is the date I brought you the NY post story that detailed the first  real hint of trouble for Whistler/Blackcomb resort owners, Intrawest, whose creditors are threatening to foreclose on them and seize control.

Well, today CBC has the followup story as a result of this weeks article in the  NY Post that say VANOC officials are considering pulling their financial support as a result of the mess. If that happens, the Olympics might not be able to take place in Whistler!

So how bad is it? Well, the creditors have rejected a repayment proposal and may move to foreclose on the resort in 10 days – putting everyone into crisis mode with only weeks until the games begin.

Sources tell The Post that creditors holding $1.4 billion of debt on Whistler owner Intrawest are planning to foreclose on the company within the next week and a half, casting a shadow on the resort, which will host the alpine events of the 2010 Olympics. “It will probably happen within 10 days,” a source said.
~ snip~

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/business/intrawest_foreclosure_threat_to_15qRjmzgdwLCkGfNdhdwjI#ixzz0dB2VLFsC

And yes, I’m still officially on a break, but this is too good to pass up.

 Should this not be a topic of discussion at the water cooler? CKNW?  And if I were the editor of a large local daily, I would certainly have this on the front page, which it is not. But hey, that is just me…because as detailed in the NY post story I brought you on the 11th, some people are expecting a bail-out from the Canadian government, who refused to respond to the NY post story.

So, the questions remain: 

 Is the Canadian government going to fork over some rescue cash to Fortress to save the Olympics?

Or is that something the provincial government is working on behind the scenes?  Why no response?

 And more importantly, why have I had to rely on the NY Post for these stories  – until today ? Thank God for east coast news outlets!

** Businessweek is reporting that Intrawest is headed for the auction block Feb. 19th- smack dab in the middle of the 2010 Olympics…… ; )


Let the Games begin!

PS: I know you have all read this MANY times prior to this, but humour me again,especially in light of current developments- this is for those NY post writers scoping the blog all day…. http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/the-key-to-the-bc-rail-sale-lays-in-premier-gordon-campbells-beginnings-in-real-estate-and-land-development/

Like I said, sometimes.. things that are old, become new again. You be the judge

Is this really about protecting the homeless – or protecting the Olympic image ?

 In a move that Coast Mountain and Translink will surely claim as altruistic, Transit police have been given the authority to identify,and move homeless people to shelters during extreme weather. They will even call in a shuttle bus and driver to transport them to the closest shelter. Now, that doesn’t seem all that bad, does it?

However, those same police have also been given the authority  to identify anyone else who they deem to be a problem and move them to a shelter themselves :   “Any person that could potentially be disruptive on CMBC’s services will be transported to a shelter by the Transit Police.” 

Now that, to me, is a pretty loaded statement that could encompass pretty much anyone and any behavior. And how do the shelters feel about this development of becoming a dumping ground for potentially disruptive people?

 Interestingly enough, I watched the full story on this new development on Global BC this weekend, which, in my opinion, slipped the news by most people on the January 2nd, evening news final, which aired at 11 pm Saturday night!  Unfortunately, despite searching high and low on the Global site, the video or the newscast from that evening doesn’t seem to be posted.  Big surprise there. I’ve emailed looking for a link or file to that story, and will post it if it becomes available to me.

After watching Ken Hardie explain this all away during the segment, where talk of bad rain also joined the cold, extreme weather definition, I laughed. He said that taking a bus ride might be less threatening than a police car for some people. True, but I still laughed, long and hard, really, because I doubt very much this is all about saving the homeless.In fact, it screams Olympic 2010 agenda.  More like another last-ditch effort at moving the unsavoury element out of view in time for 2010 games.

Sure, some of you might think I’m nuts for saying this is about the Olympics, but come on. Look at the timing! And more importantly, look at the press release:

Transit Police – Coast Mountain Bus to help homeless find shelter

Transit Police and Coast Mountain Bus will team up to help the homeless and others who need access to shelter in extreme cold weather.

Transit Police Constables who identify someone who needs shelter and transport to it will be able to request a bus/shuttle driver from Coast Mountain, who will provide free passage for the person to the nearest shelter location.

Any person that could potentially be disruptive on CMBC’s services will be transported to a shelter by the Transit Police.

CMBC President Denis Clements and Transit Police Chief Officer Ward Clapham said the joint effort is aimed at helping those who would be at high risk for injury or death from exposure in a cold snap.  They said that the program highlighted the social mandate of both public transit and the police to help people in need.

Coast Mountain routinely supports the police and firefighters with ‘shelter buses’ for people forced from their homes by police incidents and fires.

Perhaps if that one line I highlighted  for you wasn’t actually in that release, I wouldn’t be so disbelieving, but it is, and I am.

 Transit police will have the sole authority to determine who needs help, and who doesn’t, and who might potentially be disruptive, and who would not.  I emailed this to David Eby to see what he thinks of it, and will update on his reply.

I find it laughably ironic how far this government has gone to try to clean up the streets for 2010, all under the guise of selfless concern for those who inhabit the sidewalks and allies around us,and yet they continue to stall putting the same effort into real solutions that address the issue in the first place.  I would like to think the extreme weather legislation had good roots of intention, but how can one be so accepting when it gives police authority to force people into shelters? Even the VPD could see how wrong that was and subsequently backed off.

Trouncing on the rights of people who may not have anyone to stand up for them,  is clearly the biggest problem I see in all of this. Perhaps the funny thing( if one can be found) about all of this  is that the all this effort to remove the homeless relies on  the cooperation of mother nature. Somehow I don’t see any “extreme weather” showing up for the Olympics, in fact, it is quite the opposite  –  with a predicted El Nino pattern bringing mild and dry weather to the region…..