The new Port Mann Bridge will soon lose its older companion. The iconic orange arches of the old bridge will begin to be dismantled this summer.

The new Port Mann Bridge will soon lose its older companion. The iconic orange arches of the old bridge will begin to be dismantled this summer.

Port Mann Bridge free credits about to expire

Half of toll bridge's registered users haven't used up free trips

Drivers who got 20 free crossings of the new Port Mann Bridge by registering early with the TReO tolling system are about to lose any unused credits.

Bridge officials say about 250,000 of the more than 800,000 TReO-registered drivers still have some free trips remaining, but they will expire as planned May 31.

It means many Port Mann Bridge users who have so far crossed for free will now have to start paying out of pocket to continue to cross the new span.

Drivers of regular vehicles who signed up by the end of February are still charged the half-price $1.50 per crossing until December, while those who aren’t registered pay the full $3 toll and some of them are also charged a $2.30 licence plate processing fee if they don’t pay within a week.

More than 90 per cent of regular morning commuters over the bridge are registered for electronic tolling detection, said Transportation Investment Corp. spokesman Greg Johnson.

The small minority who aren’t yet registered are offered yet another carrot to sign up for TReO. Those who do so by Nov. 30 get two free crossings. And if they sign up by the end of June, TReO will convert any licence plate processing fees they were charged in the previous 30 days into an additional credit.

Johnson said use of the bridge continues to fluctuate between 100,000 and 115,000 vehicles per day, or about three million per month.

He said that’s essentially the same as with the old untolled bridge, adding that while some traffic has diverted to crossings like the Pattullo or Alex Fraser to avoid tolls, other drivers who avoided the Port Mann due to congestion have come back.

“As construction progresses through Burnaby and Coquitlam, drivers will see even more time savings,” Johnson said.

The Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement project is still slated for completion by the end of this year, with work continuing on interchanges and lanes in Coquitlam, Burnaby and Vancouver.

One of the final stages of the work will be to open the remaining two lanes of the 10-lane Port Mann. The additional lanes will be segregated from the rest of traffic and offer a direct connection between Surrey and Coquitlam.

Meanwhile, the dismantling of the old Port Mann Bridge is becoming more obvious.

All the deck and most of the girders have now been removed from the north approach.

And Johnson said crews will begin dismantling the main span arch this summer, gradually lowering segments down to barges in the Fraser River.

HOV cheaters on Port Mann could lose discount

Toll collector TReO may use its cameras to detect and punish Port Mann Bridge users who improperly use the HOV lane to get a 25 per cent discount.

The HOV discount applies in the morning and afternoon weekday rushes and there have been reports of lone motorists swerving into the HOV lane just before the tolling sensors in order to pay less.

Transportation Investment Corp. spokesman Greg Johnson said the RCMP enforce HOV lane rules but added TReO may take its own steps to deal with discount cheaters.

“We’re looking at doing our own monitoring,” he said, adding it’s too early to provide details on how that will work.

Solo drivers who TReO determines were using the HOV lane to get the discount could lose their HOV discount privileges, he said.

Johnson maintained HOV lane abuse on the bridge is not rampant.

“We’ve seen the vast majority of people who travel under the gantry in the HOV lane have more than one person in their vehicle.”

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