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Minister fumes melts ice on bridge deal

British Columbia's transportation minister has slammed the international contractor that built the newly-opened Port Mann Bridge, saying the forced closure of the span, only weeks after it opened, is an intolerable situation and that the firm should have been aware of potential problems.

More than 100 insurance claims were filed after chunks of ice pelted down onto vehicles from the bridge's suspension cables during a snowstorm on Wednesday. Two people were injured and the bridge, which links the Vancouver area to populous southern suburbs, was closed for several hours.

"We will not live with the bridge in that way," Mary Polak told a news conference.

"When you purchase a product in a store, when you build a bridge for $3.3 billion you believe that it will work. You expect it will work. When it doesn't work you seek for redress to that. You seek for someone to refund your money or you seek for someone to resolve the problem."

Polak said that's what the province will be doing.

"Taxpayers will not be on the hook for this and we will ensure that we have a bridge that is safe for the travelling public to use and that an event like this has a permanent solution to see that it doesn't happen again."

Polak said her ministry was "alive" to snow and ice being a potential problem on the bridge before it was built and there were specifications in the contract to address the concern.

"Clearly, what we saw yesterday shows that they did not meet those requirements."

The Crown agency that operates the bridge will pay the deductibles of drivers whose vehicles were damaged in the incident. Tolls for travellers who crossed the bridge between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday will also be waived.

The bridge was built by Kiewit-Flatiron General Partnership. The company said in a statement it was working to figure out where the problem is and find a solution quickly.

The Canadian Press


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