John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The widest bridge in the world, the Vancouver-area Port Mann span, is failing its debut in a spectacular fashion.
Should Stephen King ever seek a sequel to Christine, perhaps he should look into recent events on the widest bridge in the world, the Vancouver-area Port Mann span. Ever since it opened in September, this inanimate giant of cold steel has been waging bloody war against the puny humans who use it for their daily commute.
Actually, even before it opened the multibillion-dollar Fraser River bridge made a spectacular protest against its flesh-and-blood creators. In February, a building crane suffered a malfunction and, in an accident that shook nearby workspaces, released an immense hunk of concrete into thin air. Said witness Edward Jordan to CTV News, presumably without taking a breath: "It was a very loud and unnatural sort of sound and I looked over at the river and there was water splashing up and I realized something very large must have gone down."
Perhaps sensing that people were now leery of the ground, the sadistic span launched an attack from above. When a major winter storm blew into British Columbia this December, cables high up on the crossing began accumulating thick layers of ice. They suddenly released them on the afternoon of December 19 in the form of auto-body-smashing "slushbombs" that hit hundreds of cars and knocked one person unconscious. Have a look at the incoming ice mortars (commentary provided by an angry pirate):
The bridge hardly waited for the ink on the insurance papers to dry before striving again to unleash hell. It was on a foggy dawn last Thursday when the byway welcomed in dozens of drivers who were quickly surprised to find themselves on what one called a "skating rink." Frictionless ice covering the vapor-cloaked road led to car after car crashing into one another; the resulting pileup involved 40 motorists in a glass-splintered mess.
In a true sign that Port Mann is cursed, the British Columbia transportation minister has vowed that drivers will have to pay for their own damages in this mega-collision, because contractors who applied deicing liquid to the bridge did nothing "that they were negligent in." Perhaps they should've applied holy water, instead. The travesty with this bridge could be just beginning, prophesizes the Daily Brew's Matthew Coutts:
Falling ice, slippery conditions. They say bad things come it threes. Perhaps drivers should take the long route until that third shoe drops.
Or maybe the bridge should only be open in summer.
Top photo courtesy of Torben Hansen on Flickr.