The five lanes of traffic over the new Port Mann Bridge will increase to eight on Dec. 1

The five lanes of traffic over the new Port Mann Bridge will increase to eight on Dec. 1

Last cars roll across old Port Mann Bridge

New span takes over for all traffic three weeks ahead of tolls

Drivers who wanted to take one last commute over the old Port Mann Bridge have missed their chance.

All traffic is now using the new span after the westbound lanes were redirected onto the new crossing last weekend. Eastbound traffic has been using the new bridge since late September.

“As of Friday night or early Saturday morning, the last vehicles would have crossed the old Port Mann Bridge,” said Transportation Investment Corp. spokesman Greg Johnson. “It was a smooth traffic flip.”

The new bridge officially opens Dec. 1 with eight lanes and drivers will have one week to try it for free before tolls kick in Dec. 8. Just five lanes are now open.

“We’re just putting on the finishing touches,” Johnson said, adding the electronic tolling system is being tested and no problems have been detected so far.

Another year of construction work will continue on the western portions of the Highway 1 corridor through Burnaby and Vancouver, as well as the eventual dismantling of the old Port Mann Bridge in 2014.

The full 10 lanes won’t be open until late 2013 when the last two lanes are opened.

When complete, there will be two lanes in both directions that will act as local traffic-only lanes directly connecting Surrey and Coquitlam.

Those drivers – who account for a large portion of Port Mann traffic – will no longer have to merge with other highway traffic to cross.

But drivers who enter at 152 Street and exit at Cape Horn to take those separated lanes won’t get the 25 per cent discount offered to registered HOV lane users who cross at peak times.

To get the discount, westbound drivers would have to detour east in Surrey and take the 156 Street on-ramp dedicated for HOVs to cross the bridge in the HOV lane. Eastbound drivers from Cape Horn will have their choice of local traffic, HOV or general lanes and would exit at 156 if they take the HOV option.

Drivers must tick the box identifying themselves as HOV users when they register through the TReO tolling system or they don’t get the discount, which only applies on travel in HOV lanes with at least two occupants and only on weekdays between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

Johnson said most drivers are ticking the HOV box so they get the discount when it applies, even if they normally drive alone and would rarely qualify.

Tolls were to start at $3 but the province announced in September a half-price discount that will run until at least March – drivers who register with the TReO tolling system by then will get the 50 per cent discount for a full year.

As of Monday, more than 250,000 people had registered for TReO, close to the province’s target of at least 300,000 by the end of February.

Another deadline is coming up fast. Drivers who sign on to TReO by Nov. 30 get a credit for 20 free crossings.

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