The Crown company that operates the new Port Mann Bridge has admitted the crossing was not properly de-iced before slippery conditions contributed to dozens of crashes Thursday morning.
Roughly 25 accidents involving at least 40 vehicles have been reported, a catastrophe Mounties are blaming on a combination of black ice and extremely poor visibility brought on by the blanket of heavy fog that fell on Metro Vancouver early in the day.
Transportation Investment Corporation spokesman Max Logan told CTV News the contractor hired to monitor the Port Mann hadn’t doused the bridge with de-icing solution since 4 a.m. Wednesday.
“The amount that they put on they thought was sufficient for a 48 hour period, it obviously was not,” Logan said.
The service provider, Mainroad Contracting, also patrolled the billion-dollar toll bridge six times between 10 p.m. Wednesday and 5 a.m. Thursday, but saw no sign of ice danger.
“Ice did accumulate very rapidly between 5 and 6,” Logan said. “We have said to them that from now on application of that de-icing solution every 48 hours is not sufficient. It needs to happen more frequently, at least once a day when we have conditions like tonight and yesterday.”
Logan said sand is generally not used on roads in the Lower Mainland, but that salt could be laid in addition to the de-icing solution, which consists of a brine-saltwater mix.
Because the mayhem of Thursday morning did not force the closure of the bridge, Logan said toll refunds will not be issued.
Injuries have been reported, but the precise number has not been confirmed. RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen said the accidents on the bridge varied in severity.
“Some of [the vehicles] were significantly damaged, resulting in the injury to some of the occupants, and some of them were less severe and more of a fender-bender-type scenario,” Thiessen said.
Driver Lorri Lego said she was crossing the bridge with her daughter Samantha at around 5:40 a.m. Thursday when they got caught up in chaos.
Lego said when they were about halfway across she started to see a bunch of break lights through the fog. She tapped on her brakes, only to start sliding out of control on the ice.
“We slid for a good 30 feet anyway, stopped about 30 feet ahead of the big accident that was ahead of us,” Lego said. “It was horrendous, there were cars sliding everywhere.”
After stopping for a moment, she suddenly saw a pair of headlights coming towards her from behind.
“He came and hit the side of a truck and plowed into the back of my car.”
Lego said neither she nor her daughter were hurt, but the situation still left her frustrated.
“You know, we pay a toll, you expect that it’s in good repair. It’s brand new, it’s winter – winter happens in Canada – why am I paying for this to put my life in danger?”
The situation marks the second time in as many weeks that the new Port Mann has come under fire for apparent planning blunders.
On Dec. 19, falling ice unexpectedly plummeted onto cars as they crossed the bridge, denting hoods, cracking windshields and injuring two people.
The ice has resulted in roughly 250 damage claims to date, according to the Insurance Corporation of B.C., but the Transportation Investment Corporation has agreed to pay the deductibles of affected drivers.