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?

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

  1. Why didn’t this ever get mentioned when they opened the bridge? I don’t think I ever remember this being an Olympic project.

    Kinda quiet from Mr. Hardie, eh? Nothing to say Ken?


  2. I live in Maple Ridge and we still have not used the bridge because we refuse to pay that toll on principle, and the same goes for all our neighbours, it would have to be a life or death situation or something to make us cross it!!

    I know a lot of us might use it if it were free, but we just don’t want to fork over that money!!

    Campbell has to go, this was probably his idea!!


  3. Good post!! I never liked that stupid bridge, and these cracks are why construction bonuses are not a good thing. I work in concrete, and i have seen a lot of shit going down that shouldnt happen, just to make a deadline. Like not curing, and not using the right mix for the conditions, just because th right mix takes to long to order.

    Thanx and sry for the mistakes I’m using my Iphone.


  4. According to our illustrious Liberal government, about the only project connected to the games was Quatchi the Sasquatch and his two partners. I read where the government also said the Ministry created prior to the games should NOT be an Olympic related expense. The government will do anything to have us believe that the cost for this 2 week ( only for my rich friends ) party was ” on time & on budget ” ( using the current famous Liberal quote ).
    The size & cost of Liberal mismanagement will make the fast ferry fiasco look like a drop in the bucket. But what’s worse is that it will continue without a strong opposition. If the NDP is riding so high in the polls, I think it’s time to start challenging the Liberals. Call Campbell to a publicly televised debate or better yet, challenge him to call an election. ( yes I’m aware of the fixed election date, but I’m also aware the Liberals have changed the rules many times in the past couple of years ).


  5. Laila – Thank You!

    There is NO doubt that this is just one of many projects made specifically for the Olympics, with full denial from Campbell and his cabal.

    The cost of this, the Sea to Sky upgrade, the Canada Line and others MUST be added to the cost of the Olympics IF we are ever to know the true costs. We know the truth, they know the truth – but only one of us will admit it.


  6. Laila, a treasure trove of documents still exits at the EAO website – here’s the direct link:


    The documents are all categorized and you may want to start out with the “Application and Supporting Studies” section.

    That said, the need for the GEB and GEW was highlighted:

    1. In 1993 by the GVRD in its Transport 2021 Long Term Transportation Plan;

    2. In 1997 by the British Columbia Transportation Financing Authority’s (BCTFA) Lower Mainland Highway Systems Report;

    3. In 1999, by MoT in its Fraser River Crossing Planning and Evaluation Study;

    4. In 2000, by TransLink in its 2000 Strategic Transportation Plan where it was targeted for implementation between 2005 and 2010;

    I suspect that when the SFPR is connected to GEW circa 2013, the latent demand for the GEB will increase significantly due to the time savings involved for trips to the ferry terminal and YVR, for example.

    Frankly, I don’t see how a crossing between Ridge Meadows and Port Kells/Surrey would fit into an “Olympic Games Transportation Initiative”. Sounds a little over the top to me. 😀


    1. Well done Todd, and you are right that there was lots of talk about making a crossing across the river for many years PRIOR to the Olympic bid, HOWEVER,( and I did mention all this in this post) nothing and no one did anything to make that a reality – until the Olympic Bid. Sounds over the top to you? Talk to whomever it was that decided this bridge should be an Olympic initiative, Todd, because it certainly wasn’t my idea!

      And Todd, since I posted this, I have located more government documents confirming this was a 2010 Olympic Initiative project. That is the wonderful thing about the internet, some things do stick around forever that maybe some people would like to have disappear. Google docs and cached versions are a wonderful thing…..lol.

      Take a closer look at the VANOC print screen I have which highlights the bridge as a lasting transit improvement of the games, ” a connection to the West Coast Express”. Of course, take people off the roads from those communities and put on them on west coast express for the duration of the 2010 games. Take a closer look at the print screen of a major contractor that worked on the project, one that is very large and reputable. Think they are going to mislead or lie on their website ? I think not, but just to make sure, I called and confirmed.

      Now we only need to hear what Translink has to say about this, as well as the MOT. Ken Hardie did not return my email yesterday, which is very unlike him in my experience, but I am going to call him this morning.

      And may I point out that any latent need for the GEB will likely not materialize for far longer than you anticipate, since with the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, Deltaport is going to suddenly see a massive drop in business, therefore eliminating any need for the SFPR. China and the rest of Asia is not going to spend more to ship their goods here and then truck them or send them via rail across the country,when they can take their superships through the expanded canal and go right up the other coastline!

      The only thing Translink can hope is that people get over their anger at the high tolls on this bridge and start paying. Somehow, I don’t see that happening.


  7. Laila, I stated that the “concept” was over the top – not you! Even the GVTA’s own project schedule filed with the EAO had an GEB contemplated opening date of 2007, 3 years prior to the Games:

    Click to access 1049308151488_cf0c55300d8b43398314adb45dd58ec4.pdf

    The “Olympic Initiative” just sounds more like a marketing gimmick to me in terms of the GEB. I doubt that there’s much more to it than that – just like the 48 additional Skytrain cars and 200 additional buses added to the fleet. It’s all required transportation infrastructure IMHO.


    1. I stand corrected with respect to saying I was over the top, Todd.. 🙂 However….

      You are entitled to your opinion, but the fellow I spoke with yesterday was very clear that this bridge was an Olympic Initiative, part of a number of projects that were fast-tracked to make the transportation plan as seamless as possible.

      So, if it is a marketing gimmick, why would VANOC be pointing out, in their own Game plan document that – while it is on the web, it was clearly not designed for the general public – lists the Golden Ears Bridge as a ” Permanent Transit Enhancement” ? Again, they point out in that document that it connects to the West Coast express.


  8. I thought it was SNC’s Bill Bennet Bridge in Kelowna that was suffering from a cracked deck structure. Maybe its something in the water? Or aggregate; or cement?


    1. I suspect it is something related to the rather large, performance deadline bonuses, John! Gotta get the work done on time, and don’t worry about anything else. You see, it’s all covered under warrenty, which means the repairs will still cost far less the large bonus they received for getting that work done before the deadline. One day past and the bonus is lost.

      Means concrete doesn’t have time to cure properly, they just keep going, maybe use whatever is on hand rather than the right product, etc etc etc….


  9. Laila, I know I’ve mentioned this before but just to raise it again, though it’s somewhat tangential to the bridge issues…..though not tangential to the Olympics-costs issues.

    Right from its very inception Garibaldi Lifts Co. (now Whistler-Blackcomb) was started as a prelude/plan to bring the Olympics to British Columbia; this was an ongoing theme throughout Whistler’s history since; you’d hear it in rhetoric surrounding the ’87 Molson World Cup downhill, and in all highways discussions since 99 was first extended to Pemberton (’67?) as well as at the time of the M Creek Disaster in ’82 and thereafter. Improvements to “the highway of death” as the Province at the time dubbed it were expensive and ongoing and a LOT of work was done before the Olympic bid was made official and even more money was committed to upgrading the highway even MORE than it had been already, especially after M Creek. The Brohm Ridge-Cheakmus Canyon work in particular, plus various upgrades to Howe Sound, were in the hundreds of millions….and all ultimately Olympics-targeted – if they hadn’t been done, in fact, Whistler would never have been a viable bid (unless someone had gotten their shit together and built the long-promised high-speed rail link from Eugene-Portland-Seattle that still has no sign of materializing)….the bid-era spending was just putting the finishing touches on a long-range plan that had been in the works since the RMOW was incorporated. Every time they pushed for highway improvements, the word “Olympics” was mentioned, same with the extension of Highway 99 to Lillooet and Cache Creek (which only happened to give Whistler its “back door” and wasn’t for the benefit of Lillooet as such; NB the other parts of the Lillooet Country pushed hard to get the Hurley paved, or a highway pushed through D’Arcy and Seton, but Whistler wanted the fast track and the shorter drive via Cayoosh Pass/Duffey Lake, even though that didn’t help the rest of the region and specifically bypassed the smaller towns and localities in the region – which STILL don’t have pavement, though should…)

    So I’m wondering with your data-hunting skills you can dig up how much was spent on Highway 99 between 74 (RMOW incorporation date I think) and/or 82 and the onset of “formal” Olympics spending; I know there was a second phase between 82 and about 85, with the M Creek-related work somewhat separate from Expo-era improvements (“M-creek related” meaning all improvements in the wake of the washouts of which M Creek was only one, e.g. Culltion Creek Bridge rebuilding, Brohm Ridge etc).

    As for Fraser bridges, I remember seeing the pediments of the Mission Bridge built, then languish for a good five years before the deck and access ramps ever got built….the problem at the time, as intimated by my fanatically NDP teachers at Mission High, was that the voters of the Mission part of the Dewdney riding didn’t vote strongly enough for George Mussallem, whose Maple Ridge base was pretty staunchly Socred…..there were also issues with where and how the ramps on the north side would connect with Highway 7. But I wonder how much money was wasted while the construction was in abeyance, and what the delay itself cost in terms of increased construction materials costs etc…..

    The bridge from Langley to Maple Ridge was originally scheduled to be from Derby to Kanaka Creek, by the way (which would have ruined two regional parks, Derby Reach and Kanaka Creek, in one fell swoop).


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