B.C.’s transportation minister says the 40 drivers involved in the mayhem on the Port Mann Bridge Thursday will not be forgiven their tolls or given compensation because the bridge maintenance contractor did nothing wrong.
Mary Polak said the province has reviewed the work of Mainroad Contracting, which has a contract with Transportation Investment Corp. to maintain the Port Mann Bridge, and found it was not negligent. She said Mainroad followed the standard procedure and applied a saltwater brine to the bridge at 4 a.m. on Jan. 2 — which was expected to be effective for 48 hours — and did “vigorous patrols” between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Thursday.
“There’s nothing they’ve done that they were negligent in,” Polak said. “There’s nothing with respect to what they did that they could have predicted what did happen with any certainty.”
Polak’s comments come a day after TI Corp. — the Crown agency that operates the provincially owned bridge — said that despite the measures taken by Mainroad, there was insufficient de-icing on the bridge. The agency ordered that a saltwater solution be applied daily to the bridge, as well as salt when needed.
Drivers described the bridge deck, especially the HOV lane, as a “skating rink.”
Kevin Dahl, who was travelling westbound across the bridge at about 5:40 a.m., said he slowed down after encountering thick fog as he approached the crest of the bridge. Dahl, who was in the HOV lane, said he had already passed a pileup involving 10 to 15 cars and was travelling below the speed limit when he first noticed the brake lights in the fog.
As he coasted toward them, he noticed more lights and started to brake, but it caused him to fishtail.
“I fishtailed for probably 200 feet before I got into my accident,” he said. As he got to out to see if the other driver was OK, Dahl started sliding on the deck and almost fell over. “I couldn’t believe how icy the bridge was,” he said.
Insurance Corp. of B.C. spokesman Adam Grossman said he expects about 40 claims to be filed.
Polak argues that neither the province nor the contractor is responsible for the crashes, because there’s nothing to indicate they were related to the design of the bridge. She said Thursday’s situation involves a combination of factors, including black ice, dense fog at the time of the crash and faster speeds on the bridge.
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