At its congested worst, the Port Mann Bridge can feel like a parking lot.
But there's a plan afoot that envisions it as paradise, or at least a greenway that would feature greenery and walkways instead of cars and commuters.
Metro Vancouver manager Gaetan Royer has floated the notion of turning the aging span, now scheduled for demolition, into a greenway along the lines of public spaces such as New York's popular High Line and the Promenade Plantée in Paris.
"I suggested to the group that we need to think a bit differently about what parks are going to look like in the future," Mr. Royer, Metro's manager of metropolitan planning, environment and parks, said on Thursday, a day after he pitched the idea to a Metro parks committee meeting.
The concept hasn't been subjected to budgeting or feasibility tests. The Port Mann project calls for the bridge now in use to be demolished when the new one – which will be tolled and built to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians – comes into service.
The new 10-lane bridge is scheduled to open in December of 2012 and the $3.3-billion project is to be finished the following year.
Given Metro's expected population growth – a million more residents by 2040 – Metro park planners need to get creative when thinking about green space, Mr. Royer said.
"Many of our parks are not at capacity, but are approaching capacity," he said. "You try to find a parking spot at Belcarra Regional Park or Boundary Bay in the summer and it's very difficult because of how crowded they are.
"So is there a way of thinking outside the box and looking at some assets in our region in a different way?"
Repurposing the Port Mann Bridge would be in line with projects in other cities that have focused on fixing or improving past planning bungles by, for example, reclaiming waterfront lands for public use.
Even if it turns out to be too costly or technically challenging to turn the entire bridge into a greenway, planners could consider reclaiming approach ramps on the east side of the river, Mr. Royer said.
By doing so, park officials could knit the greenway into proposed Surrey park extensions and an emerging trail network along the Fraser River.
Trying to reclaim at least part of the old Port Mann Bridge would also dovetail with the region's 'zero waste' strategy, Mr. Royer said.
"It's a huge concrete and steel structure that is being bulldozed apart ... some of it is going to be recycled but much of it is simply consuming energy to tear it apart and transport the rubble somewhere else," he said.
After pitching the idea to the committee and getting an enthusiastic reception, Mr. Royer said he may put the concept to the province.
Metro's parks committee manages 13,800 hectares of park land and more than $125-million worth of park facilities.