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Widest bridge in the world Port Mann open in Vancouver

First publishedin ITS International
March April 2013
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800,000 vehicle use Port Mann bridge
More than 800,000 vehicles use the Port Mann bridge each week

Port Mann Bridge, designed to growing regional congestion and improve the movement of people, goods and transit throughout greater Vancouver, is now open for business.

The widest bridge in the world, the Port Mann Bridge located in the metro Vancouver area, in British Columbia, Canada, features an Open Road Tolling (ORT) system, also called All Electronic Tolling (AET), which will ultimately cross all 10 lanes of traffic. A key component of the Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project (PMH1), the bridge was constructed with the ambitious goal of alleviating congestion at one of the region's top traffic checkpoints.

“The PMH1 Project is designed to address growing regional congestion and improve the movement of people, goods and transit throughout greater Vancouver,” said Mike Proudfoot, CEO, Transportation Investment Corporation (TI Corp). “The project reflects the need for a balance of transit, improved safety along the corridor, and road and bridge improvements to keep traffic moving, our economy strong and our region liveable.”

The project is expected to reduce travel times by up to 30%, and save drivers in the Vancouver area up to an hour a day.

In with the new

The new bridge replaces the previous five-lane Port Mann Bridge, built in the early 1960s, back when the population of Vancouver was 800,000. Today more than 800,000 vehicles cross the bridge every week. The bridge was unable to handle the increasing volume of traffic, resulting in chronic congestion lasting up to 14 hours every day.

The PMH1 Project was designed to address this congestion and provide a regional transportation corridor that can accommodate the more than 2.2 million people that call Metro Vancouver home, as well as the additional one million residents expected in the region over the next 30 years.

The bridge is 2,020 metres long, and at 65 metres wide is the world's widest long-span bridge. Port Mann Bridge, which also features North America's widest free flow gantry at 70 metres long, connects Surrey and Coquitlam over the Fraser River east of Vancouver.

Construction of the bridge started in 2010 and is currently complete in an eight-lane configuration. The 10-lane configuration will be completed once the old bridge has been dismantled. The toll system was installed during 2012 and tolling became operational on 8 December, 2012.

The construction cost of CAD$3.3 billion is financed through long-term bonds and commercial paper. Although British Columbia had not previously collected tolls on the bridge, now the funds are essential for the project. All tolls are collected by TC Flow on behalf of TI Corp to pay directly for the costs of the PMH1 Project. TI Corp expects to take approximately 35 to 40 years to collect enough toll revenue to fully repay the cost of PMH1 construction.
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Gantry-mounted sensors and cameras Port Mann Bridge
Gantry-mounted sensors and cameras identify each vehicle as it passes the toll point on the bridge
TI Corp is a public crown corporation established under the Transportation Investment Act to implement the PMH1 Project and operate the toll system. It contracts with TC Flow (Trans Canada Fow Tolling Inc.) – a consortium of Sanef and Egis – for day-to-day tolling operations, including customer service, billing and accepting payments.

TI Corp also contracts with Sanef ITS (previously CSSI) for development, implementation and maintenance of the toll system. Sanef ITS delivered the complete toll system including the roadside and back office subsystems. The Port Mann Bridge tolling system, TReO, was developed by the company, based on its FastFlow AET system. The fully electronic system enables the bridge operators to collect tolls without impeding traffic flow.

Each vehicle registered displays a unique transponder sticker with an embedded RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip which identifies the vehicle as it passes the toll point on the bridge. The major innovation of this project is the ability to use RFID tags in a sticker format that is easily and securely placed on-board the vehicle.

The system uses gantry-mounted sensors and cameras to read the decals, dimensions and license plates of vehicles that pass over the Port Mann Bridge.

All this information is processed in a transaction that is sent to the back office software, called FastToll ERP, which can manage millions of transactions every day. The system automatically generates invoices and statements based on the transactions.

The Port Mann Bridge gantry is equipped with PIPS vehicle enforcement system (VES) cameras with built in Optical Character Recognition (OCR) functionality that reads licence plates; Aerocont high resolution video cameras; Sirit antennas; and OSI vehicle classification and detection laser scanners. In addition, eight Idris loops are embedded per lane with axle counting and classification capability.

Easy, electronic and efficient

“TI Corp has developed an All Electronic Tolling system based on the principles of ease of use, superior customer service, convenience and fairness,” says Christian Copin, head of operations, customer care and implementation, TC Flow. “To stay true to their brand’s tag line – easy, electronic and efficient – Port Mann Bridge had to ensure a customer friendly high quality service, that is easy to understand and easy to use, is incorporated into both toll system and operations.”

“The quality of the toll system components and operations are a key to having a successful implementation,” he continues. “Accuracy of toll subsystems in capturing the correct transaction, and further due-diligence conducted by TC Flow, assures we have been instrumental in ensuring accuracy of the toll products and bills.”

Given the high-profile nature of the project in the Vancouver area, accuracy of customer correspondence, including the bills, are vital to project success. TC Flow, TI Corp and Sanef ITS worked closely together to resolve all billing issues prior to issuance of the first bill in late January. This involved almost a month of on-site testing and QA.
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Port Mann Bridge now open
“Having a system that is accurate is essential,” says Peter Wilkinson, Site Manager, Sanef-ITS. “As opposed to traditional tolling, all transactions have to be checked. Most of the processes are automated and optimization of these processes is key to having a system with minimal risk of inaccurate billing, but ultimately there are some checks and validations that have to be done by hand. Our system is designed with built in redundancies and processes that virtually eliminate errors.”

TI Corp’s unique multichannel customer service programme features a variety of self-service options for registration and payment of tolls. Users may register via the Internet, telephone or at point-of-sale locations. In addition, bridge patrons may choose to pay before or after travel using a variety of payment methods, including online, phone, mail or in person at self-serve kiosks or tolling customer service centers.

“The state-of-the-art website was designed for ease of use,” Copin says. “Traditionally, development of the website is part of a toll system contract. In order to ensure proper design, however, TI Corp engaged a third party web expert team to design, develop and test this central key interface with our customers. This investment clearly paid off demonstrated by the success of our marketing campaign and customers' use of the website to register and sign up for electronic billing.”

Port Mann Bridge already has more than 450,000 registered user accounts with more than 750,000 license plates, and 87 per cent of those accounts registered online. Approximately 70 per cent of vehicles that use the bridge are registered users.

In addition, a mobile application of the website is available for most smart phones, and customers can also interact via social media channels. For those users who want to speak to a real person, the dedicated multilingual call center features a Cisco Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX) telephone/email system integrated directly with the tolling system.

TI Corp even considered the customer service aspect with relation to unregistered bridge users. The system interfaces with the regional car registration agency to bill customers not yet registered in the system.

“Outdoor payment kiosks, toll payment applications integrated with parking pay stations, are an integral part of the customer service channel matrix and have been installed at different locations to provide less frequent users convenient toll payment options,” Proudfoot points out.

Unregistered customers also have the option to use a parking pay-by-phone system currently in place throughout Greater Vancouver area. One account works everywhere for parking and tolls with auto payment, SMS and e-mail payment.

“There is no toll violator in British Columbia,” Proudfoot concluded. “Everyone using the facility is either a current or a future customer, and our goal is to ensure consistency of branding and provide a seamless experience to all our customers, regardless of who they are and which channel they choose to use.”

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